The words Welcome Home written on a old brown diary paperThe divorced couple’s child moved out of the mother’s home when he was 18, established his own residence, and began paying for all of his own expenses. Thereafter, the father’s petition to terminate his support obligations was granted.

In September 2013, the child returned to the mother’s home. The mother sought to reinstate and modify

A couple that used “employment” of the ex-wife by the ex-husband as a device to provide post-remarriage support to the ex-wife was bound to employment rules. The wife could be fired for misconduct. So held the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in its September 26, 2014 decision in Anderson v. Anderson.

The Separation and Property

Peter_Pan_by_nk_title.pngAt age 18, the child becomes an adult, legally beyond the reach of parental decisions. However, not until age 21 does the legal obligation to support that child come to an end (unless extended by agreement).

A parent’s obligation to support may end (or be suspended) before that, as when a child marries, enters the armed forces, or becomes economically independent.  However, as a practical matter as long as the child remains under a parent’s roof, economic independence may not be found.

Take the June 28, 2011 of the Appellate Division, Second Department, in Smith v. Smith. There, the Court affirmed Suffolk County Family Court Richard Hoffman ‘s denial of a father’s objections to the order of Support Magistrate (and Pace Law School Professor) Cheryl Joseph-Cherry which awarded $200.00 per month child support to the wife/mother.

The parties’ son worked full-time. He paid for his own car insurance and cell phone.  However, the appeallate court found it persuasive that the mother still paid for his food, shelter, clothing, and health and dental insurance.

The decision does not provide greater detail. We don’t know what the child “does” or how much the child earns. Presumably, if the child is in school, we would have been told.

However, the Court did place primary reliance upon the First Department’s 2009 decision in Matter of Thomas B. v Lydia D. That decision, itself placed heavy reliance upon the Second Department’s decision in Matter of Fortunato v. Fortunato, 242 A.D.2d 720, 662 N.Y.S.2d 570 (1997). In Fortunato, the child was found to be emancipated because he was:

working an average of 30 to 35 hours per week … [,] he used his earnings to meet all of his personal expenses, including car insurance payments and telephone charges, and … he voluntarily contributed modest sums to his mother for room and board. Moreover, the son was not attending school, and had no plans to save money for tuition or return to college in the immediate future.Continue Reading Child's Economic Independence, Not Full-Time Employment, Signals End of Support Obligation

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The May 5, 2011 decision of the Appellate Division Third Department in Munson v. Fanning, highlights the need for difficult discussions and prioritization before taking life-altering steps. It is also another call for the expanded use of the Collaborative Law Process.

In this case, the parties’ 12-year old daughter had been born after her parents had separated and divorced. The mother sought and permission to move with the child to California to join her new husband who had taken a new job. Saratoga Family Court Judge Courtenay W. Hall denied that relief, but revised the father’s visitation schedule to allow the mother to join her husband for extended periods during school recesses.

The appellate court reviewed whether the mother met her burden of proving by a preponderance of the credible evidence that the relocation was in the child’s best interests. Quoting the 1996 landmark decision of the Court of Appeals in Tropea v. Tropea, 87 N.Y.2d 727, 642 N.Y.S.2d 575, the court stated:

The factors to be considered in making such a determination include “each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the move, the quality of the relationships between the child and the custodial and noncustodial parents, the impact of the move on the quantity and quality of the child’s future contact with the noncustodial parent, the degree to which the custodial parent’s and child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally and educationally by the move, and the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the noncustodial parent and child through suitable visitation arrangements.”

The court recognized the healthy relationship the daughter developed the mother’s new husband, as well as her other children, all of whom were to reside in California. The step-father’s new job in California would allow her to stay at home and raise her children. The attorney for the daughter (formerly called the Law Guardian) supported the relocation.Continue Reading Relocation to California Denied Mother with 12-year Old Daughter