By Snyder & Sarno on July 15, 2016
New Jersey Court Rule 5:6B provides for a general cost-of-living adjustment for child support obligations every other year. The adjustment is based on the average change in the Consumer Price Index for the metropolitan areas that encompass the State. If the income of the parent who owes the obligation “has not increased at a rate at least equal to the rate of inflation,” that parent can contest the adjustment.
In Uppal v. Uppal, the Appellate Division reversed a Family Part order imposing a cost-of-living increase on the mother’s child support obligation. The Uppals had two children: one born in August 1987 and the other born in January 1992. On June 11, 2013, the family judge vacated an earlier order that had emancipated the older child as of August 2005 and the younger child as of January 2010, when each child turned 18. Instead, the 2013 order considered the older child emancipated upon graduation from college in May 2008. In the same order, the judge denied the father’s request for $185 a week in child support for the younger child, who was attending Columbia University at the time. The judge instead ordered both parents to submit updated case information statements (CIS). While the order suggested that a plenary hearing might be necessary to determine the child support obligation, it did not specify a due date for the CISs, or what the mother should pay in the interim. According to the mother, the father never submitted a CIS, and there were no further proceedings on the matter.
The mother argued on appeal that the February 2015 cost-of-living increase was improper because no child support order was in effect. The Appellate Division explained its difficulty in understanding the facts because the father did not respond to the appeal. It also noted that the younger child was 23 at the time of the cost-of-living order. Accordingly, it reversed and remanded the issue to the family judge. It directed the judge to hold a hearing to determine whether an ongoing child support obligation was in effect as of February 2015 and to ensure that proper child support, including any arrears, is reflected in all records.
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