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Mother Appeals Child Support Order

This is a child support proceeding pursuant to Family Court Act, article 4, wherein the mother appeals from an order of the Family Court, Nassau County dated 18 June 2007 which denied her objections to an order of the same court dated 15 December 2006, granting the father’s petition for downward modification of his child support obligation as set forth in a judgment of divorce entered 19 April 2005, to the extent of reducing his child support obligation from the sum of $2,400 per month to the sum of $1,448.12 per month.

A New York Family Lawyer said the court modifies, on the law, the order dated 18 June 2007 by deleting the provision thereof denying the mother’s objection to so much of the order dated 15 December 2006 as granted the father’s petition for downward modification of his child support obligation to the extent of reducing his child support obligation from the sum of $2,400 per month to the sum of $1,448.12 per month, and substituting therefor a provision sustaining that objection, and vacating the provision of the order dated 15 December 2006 granting the father’s petition for downward modification of his child support obligation to the extent of reducing his child support obligation from the sum of $2,400 per month to the sum of $1,448.12 per month; as so modified, the order dated 18 June 2007 is affirmed, without costs or disbursements, and the matter is remitted to the Family Court, Nassau County, for a new determination of the father’s child support obligation.

A New York Child Custody Lawyer said the long- term marriage of the parties produced three children. In 2003, the parties entered into a stipulation of settlement which was incorporated but not merged in the parties’ judgment of divorce, entered 19 April 2005. In relevant part, the stipulation of settlement provided that the parties would each pay one half of the children’s college expenses. The settlement further states that at such time as a child attends college, the amount of Child Support shall be readjusted based on Reinisch v Reinisch.

A Manhattan Family Lawyer said shortly after October 2006, after the parties’ oldest child started college, the father commenced this proceeding for a downward modification of his child support obligation, requesting that it be reduced as per divorce judgment. The Support Magistrate then granted the father’s petition to the extent of reducing his child support obligation from the sum of $2,400 to the sum of $1,448.12 per month. The mother’s objections to that support order was denied by the Support Magistrate. The court now modifies the order.

A Manhattan Child Custody Lawyer said that pursuant to a court order or a stipulation of settlement, a parent may be directed as part of his or her basic child support obligation to contribute to a child’s college educational expenses based on Domestic Relations Law § 240[1-b] [c] [7] and as held in the cases of Comstock v Comstock, Jablonski v Jablonski and Sheridan v Sperber. In Reinisch v Reinisch, the court held that a noncustodial parent paying child support while contributing to the expenses of a child’s college education is entitled to a credit for the amounts contributed to college expenses during periods when the child lives away from home. Relevant to the matter at bar, Reinisch cited to Guiry v Guiry, which provided that the credit for college expenses includes solely those expenses that are associated with the cost of the child’s room and board.

In further refining the calculation of child support credits for college expenses, it is not the payor’s overall child support obligation that might properly be reduced on account of his payment of `college expenses’ on behalf of one or more of those children; rather, [it is] the `college expenses’ paid on behalf of one particular child, or on behalf of some particular children, which could properly serve as a credit only with respect to so much of the payor’s overall child support obligation as relates to such particular child or children as held in Lee v Lee and Saslow v Saslow.

With these principles at hand, the court finds that the Family Court erred in crediting the father with 50% of the total college expenses, rather than 50% of the room and board portion of college expenses. The court also erred in applying the credit to the father’s total child support obligation instead of that portion of the child support obligation attributable to the particular child in college as held in Navin v Navin and Matter of P.St.J. v P.J.T. Accordingly, the matter must be remitted to the Family Court, Nassau County for a new determination of the father’s child support obligation.

The court finds the mother’s remaining contentions without merit.

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