The calculation of a retroactive periodic child support award to the wife and offsetting that award with credits for a retroactive award to the husband for the wife’s unpaid share of add-on expenses was the subject of the September 30, 2020 decision of the Appellate Division, Second Department in Levi v. Levi.

The parties were married in 2003 and had two children. On May 7, 2014, the husband commenced this action for a divorce. Pursuant to a pendente lite order dated September 3, 2014, the husband was directed to pay the wife $500 per month for temporary spousal maintenance, $750 per month for temporary child support, 100% of unreimbursed medical, dental, and eyeglasses expenses for the wife and the children, and to pay the expenses for certain therapists and tutors for the children.

At trial, it was established that the husband was employed full-time by the MTA, then earning a salary of $ 99,000 annually. The wife, a licensed optician, worked part-time at a neurovisual practice, earning $20 per hour, for an average of 25 hours per week.

In a February 8, 2017 decision after trial, Supreme Court Nassau County Justice Robert A. Bruno determined that the wife’s annual earnings of $26,000 represented 21% of the parties’ combined income. The trial court calculated the husband’s child support obligation under the Child Support Standards Act at $1,899.91 monthly, awarding that sum retroactive to the date of the wife’s application for pendente lite support.

Child support arrears were calculated to be $66,496.85, using the husband’s income at the time of trial to base the award retroactive to mid-2014, some 2½ years earlier when the husband was earning less. The husband appealed.


Continue Reading Retroactive Child Support Awards: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose?

Planning the budget
Planning the budget

To what extent, if any, should the courts look to step-parents and significant others to support the children of their mates? What effect should the financial arrangements between a parent and his or her new significant other (married or not married) have on the calculation of child support obligations?

Consider the November 4, 2015 decision of the Appellate Division, Second Department, in Geller v. Geller. In this case a father had petitioned for a downward modification of his $930/week child support obligation when two of his four children were emancipated.

After a hearing, Nassau County Family Court Support Magistrate Elizabeth A. Bloom determined that the father was now only required to provide support for the two youngest children, and then recalculated each parent’s pro rata share of the basic child support obligation pursuant to the Child Support Standards Act. When doing so, Magistrate Bloom also imputed income to the father for the various bills paid by the father’s employer. She determined that the father’s pro rata share of the basic child support obligation was $447 per week.

However, Magistrate Bloom deemed this amount to be “unjust or inappropriate” in light of the financial support the father was receiving from his girlfriend. Based on that, Magistrate Bloom increased the father’s formula support obligation by more than 45% to $650 per week ($33,800 per year). The father filed objections to the Support Magistrate’s order. His objections were denied by Family Court Judge Ellen R. Greenberg.


Continue Reading Child Support Calculations and the Significant Other

It is certainly not a rare problem. When confronted with fraudulent income tax returns, what is a divorce court to do? Should they be used as swords or shields?

In her January 31, 2014 decision in Morille-Hinds v. Hinds, Supreme Court Queens County Justice Pam Jackman Brown appears to have disregarded the failure to report a husband’s income on the parties’ joint income tax returns when recognizing his claim to a 50% share of marital property. Nevertheless, those returns were honored when fixing the wife’s entitlement to child support.

The parties, both 54, married in 1993. The wife had commenced this divorce action in 2007. The husband had appealed from the 2009 decision of Judicial Hearing Officer Stanley Gartenstein who had awarded him only 15% of the marital property. The J.H.O. had also imputed to the husband an annual income of $80,000 for the purpose of determining his child support obligation. The Second Department reversed, holding that decision was patently unfair to the husband. The case was sent back for a retrial on the issues of equitable distribution and child support.


Continue Reading Fraudulent Tax Returns in Divorce Actions: Sword or Shield?

Generations.jpgWhat are the support rights and obligations of a couple who have habitually lived often the generosity of their parents?

That was the question Monroe County Suprme Court Justice Richard A. Dollinger answered in his July 23, 2012 decision in G.R.P. v. L.B.P. when determining temporary support.

The divorcing couple have been married for 20 years and have 3 children. Throughout the marriage, they enjoyed a “substantial” lifestyle: a comfortable home, country club and health club memberships, annual vacations in resort communities including skiing in Colorado and winters in Florida.

However, that lifestyle always exceeded the couple’s earned income. The husband had been employed as a photographer in a business owned by his father, but the business stalled and was closed in the last 18 months. The husband claimed $8,470 in annual income as of July 2011. Although the husband held two undergraduate degrees, he never earned significant sums, with annual earnings in 2000-2009 approximating $35,000. The husband provided no evidence of his efforts to find employment, except a “meek statement” of trying to find work as a self-employed photographer.

In considering his obligation to support his family, this court declines to give any significant credence to the husband’s employment efforts. Again, the only reasonable conclusion is that the husband’s parents have financed most of, if not all, the family’s expenses for at least two years, if not significantly longer.

The wife, who also held an undergraduate degree, earned $25,000 annually from her employment.

Nonetheless, the husband in his statement of net worth listed expenses of $94,812 annually. The wife estimated expenses at more than $107,000 annually. Moreover, neither party’s budget included any expenses for the education of the oldest child, now attending college.


Continue Reading When Divorcing Parents Live Off Their Own Parents