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There are few situations in which income verification for the purposes of New York City child support claims are a simple matter.

While on the surface it wouldn’t seem all that tough to determine, the fact is that anytime there is a request for modification of support, the court must carefully weigh a host of various factors. That includes one’s salary, of course, but also costs for insurance, individual health and educational needs of each child, the receipt of public benefits, and other forms of outstanding debt.

Making sure that all of these considerations are appropriately weighed – preferably in a light most favorable to your situation – requires the help of a family law attorney with proven experience.

The case of Finch v. Finch, reviewed recently by the Mississippi Supreme Court, is a good example of the complexity of these situations. Although this is an out-of-state case and the specifics of the law can vary significantly from region to region, the general principles are applicable to parents in New York state.

Court records indicate that in the course of the divorce proceedings, the husband worked as a boat captain in New York while the wife stayed at home as a mother. Ultimately, she was awarded $4,000 a month in alimony for 36 months, followed by $3,700 a month for 48 months and then $3,400 monthly indefinitely thereafter.

A few months later, the ex-wife filed a petition for contempt, alleging her ex had failed to pay alimony, child support, obtain life insurance, maintain COBRA payments or disclose his address or phone number.

The ex-husband filed a counter petition, alleging the wife had withheld personal property from him and failed to pay the balance on a vehicle, as ordered by the divorce court. He said he hadn’t obtained health insurance for her because she failed to undergo a physical examination. He also contended that she had fraudulently indicated that she continued to pay down the marital debts, although she had stopped paying a credit card that was in his name, causing him to incur numerous fees and a hit to his credit score. On this basis, he requested a reduction of alimony from $4,000 to $2,500. He also requested that the court declare his child emancipated because the child would not communicate with him, had legally removed his last name from his own, graduated from high school and was enrolled in college.

During the subsequent hearing, it was revealed that the ex-wife had incurred debts in her former husband’s name of which he was not aware. She also had been receiving about $730 in monthly Social Security payments, of which the court was not aware, despite requirements to submit such information.

Based on all of this, the judge overseeing the case found a significant change in circumstances since the original decree was entered. He retroactively slashed the alimony payments in half, and also retroactively reduced the child support payments from $1,300 monthly to $900 monthly and relieved the father of any duty to pay his son’s educational expenses.

The ex-wife appealed this judgment, which was upheld by the appellate court, but later reversed by the state supreme court. While the court found clear and convincing evidence that the ex-wife had committed fraud upon the court, the primary issue in dispute was the ex-husband’s salary. It apparently had fluctuated dramatically from year-to-year, and the court had failed to appropriately consider that in determining the new support obligation. Additionally, the high court found that the lower court’s retroactive downward modification of child support was not appropriate. Downward modifications of child support can only be effective from the date the modification is ordered.

Also with regard to the educational support expenses, the high court found that the lower court had erred in requiring the son to maintain a “C” average in college in order to continue to receive child support. Any modifications to child support should be considered in the light most favorable to the child, based on the parent’s ability to pay, not the child’s ability to prove worthy enough to receive support.

If you are seeking a child support modification in New York City, call George M. Gilmer Esq. at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Finch v. FinchJan. 16, 2014, Mississippi Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Brooklyn Child Custody Cases Must Afford Both Parties Due Process, Dec. 21, 2013, New York City Child Support Lawyer Blog