Child Support, Enforcement, and Life Insurance
By Snyder & Sarno on January 22, 2014
When a child support order is entered in a New Jersey divorce, very often the supporting parent is required to obtain life insurance for the benefit of the children in order to ensure their continued financial support should something happen to that parent. In addition, to further ensure the continued financial support of children, after a child support order has been entered, if the supporting parent fails to keep up with his or her child support payments, the court may enforce the payments in a variety of ways. The issues of child support, enforcement, and life insurance were explored in a recent New Jersey Appellate Division case.
In Junior v. Dezao, the parties obtained a New Jersey divorce in 2010 that incorporated a property settlement agreement (PSA). One of the provisions in the PSA provided that the husband was required to maintain a $350,000 life insurance policy for the benefit of the child with the wife as trustee for the child. In 2012, the husband sought to decrease his alimony obligation and, in response, the wife sought to enforce the husband’s child support and life insurance obligations.
The family judge rejected defendant’s request to decrease his alimony obligation and ordered him to comply with his alimony and child support obligations. In addition, the judge entered a one-missed-payment warrant provision, meaning that if the husband missed even one alimony or child support payment, a warrant would be issued for his arrest. The judge also ordered the defendant to comply with the life insurance provision in the PSA.
After hearing the husband’s motion to reconsider the above matters, including the husband’s claim that he could not obtain life insurance because he had diabetes, the family judge upheld his prior ruling, except that he did modify the life insurance provision, stating that the husband was to provide another form of security in the amount of $350,000 for the benefit of the child with the wife as the trustee, and if he could not comply then he was to follow the original life insurance provision. The husband appealed and the Appellate Division upheld the judge’s decisions.
The Appellate Division held that the one-missed-payment warrant provision was permitted under Rule 5:3-7(b), which states that if a party violates a child support or alimony order, the judge may issue “a warrant to be executed upon the further violation of the judgment or order.” That is precisely what the court did here. After finding that the husband had never made a full payment, it instituted a one-missed-payment provision in order to incentivize the husband to abide by the order, and providing a sanction—specifically arrest—if he did not.
The Appellate Division noted that the family judge partially granted the husband’s request pertaining to the life insurance requirement by allowing an alternative form of security. Thus, the court held that there was no error, but even if there was an error, it was invited by the husband’s assertion that he did not qualify for life insurance because of his diabetes.
There are two important takeaways from this case. The first is that the court is entitled to add enforcement provisions to your child support order, and that includes providing that should you miss a payment, you can be arrested as a sanction.
The second is that, many times in a New Jersey divorce involving children, you will be required to obtain life insurance or another type of security to benefit your children should something happen to you. This is to ensure that your children will be supported even in the event of your death.
If you have questions about your child support order or life insurance requirement, please contact the experienced attorneys at Snyder & Sarno at (973) 274-5200.
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