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Court Rules on Child Support Problem

In this case, Patricia Bryant is the respondent-appellant and James Bryant is the appellant respondent.

History

Mr. and Mrs. Bryant were originally married in 1976. Their two children were born 1981 and 1983. The initial separation between the couple took place in 1994, with an understanding between the two of them that Mrs. Bryant would have physical custody of the children, although they would share custody. The following year, Mr. Bryant was ordered to pay $116 each week in child support.

A later hearing examined the financial parties of both parties. A New York Criminal Lawyer said that James Bryant had received a sizable inheritance from his father. Over the course of the hearing, he was ordered to pay out the counsel fees of $4000, a weekly child support payment of $115, a lump sum of $100000 in two payments and to maintain health and dental insurance for each child. The insurance was to be his responsibility until a divorce was finalized.

Mr. Bryant attempted to argue that the inheritance should not be included in the assessment of child support. He argued that the lump sum payment should not be required and that a portion of the Family Court Act was unconstitutional, but none of these arguments were upheld.

Family Court Act

Section 413(1)(e) of the Family Court Act essentially states that when a parent receives money from sources outside of his or her regular income, the court can determine how that money needs to be paid in child support. A New York Family Lawyer said the impact such a payment might have upon the parent who has to make it should be considered, but it is not against any regulation for the court to rule that a lump sum payment be made. The statute also clearly sets this type of money outside of other money that is classified as income.

Section 1(c) clearly shows that inheritances should not be included when assessing the income of a parent. The fees that he was required to pay are also allowable because section 1(f) makes it clear that the court has the ability to require additional payments if it deems that in a given situation the current amount of child support being paid is unjust.

The initial assessment based on the inheritance did have some flaws, however. A Nassau County Family Lawyer said that the lump sum assessed would require liquidation of assets that could prove difficult for the respondent. Complicating the issue further is the fact that the son of the couple was living with the respondent at the time. Awards of this type are to ensure that the child enjoys a certain standard of living; however, that child was already enjoying any increased standard of living afforded by the inheritance as a result of living with his father already.

It also appeared that the initial ruling may have made a mistake when assessing how much child support needed to be paid because the amount paid for medical insurance may not have been considered when looking at the total expenses that the respondent faces for supporting the children. A Queens Family Lawyer said that another mistake was made when the respondent was ordered to also maintain insurance for the petitioner herself in addition to their children.

As a result, a new hearing was scheduled for determining child support. When ruling on the matter, Family Court was reminded to keep in mind that the income of both parents and the potential financial impact on the respondent of child support payments need to be considered when determining how much child support needs to be paid. If a lump sum based on the inheritance is still required, then Family Court should consider if there are ways it could be paid that would not affect the principal assets of the respondent in such a way that may damage his own standard of living or ability to support himself.

Results

The initial ruling was reversed, and the Family Court of Schenectady County was required to proceed in redetermining child support requirements.

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