- On September 14, 2015
“I am divorced. My ex-husband just received a significant inheritance and invested it in a new home twice the size and expense of our former marital home. Nothing seems to be left for child support or the college expenses of our son. Can he get away with this?”
No. While a parent’s income earned through employment is central in determining their contributions to child support and college expenses, it is not the only measure that determines their ability to pay. As for college expenses, the court will consider the parents’ property, capital assets and the capacity to earn by diligent attention to their investments.
Assets acquired by a parent after a divorce may be considered in determining that parent’s support obligation. Courts have held that the potential for such assets to generate income, and whether the supporting spouse squandered that opportunity, figures into the calculus. The benchmark is “what is equitable and fair in all circumstances”.
A parent cannot insulate an asset from a child support obligation by converting it into a non-income producing asset. In a 1997 New Jersey case, a court found that the purchase price of a father’s new home far exceeded the value of the marital home, and thus was not consistent with the marital lifestyle. The court held that the funds used by the father to enhance his lifestyle should be quantified and that amount should be imputed to have been invested so as to generate income to enable him to meet his support obligation.
If you are divorced and not getting the child support or college expenses due to you and your child, consult a divorce lawyer and ask the lawyer to review two court decisions with you: Stiffler v. Stiffler, 304 N.J. Super. 96 (Ch. Div. 1997) and Connell v. Connell, 313 N.J. Super. 426 (App. Div. 1998). If your circumstances parallel the facts in the Stiffler and Connell, cases, the court will most likely imput income on the amount that the purchase price of the father’s new home exceeded the value of the marital home, and add the imputed income to the father’s other income in determining his child support obligations.