Judge Lawrence Jones, Superior Court judge in Ocean County, New Jersey recently ruled that a parent is permitted to pay his child support directly to his child, and not the child’s other parent. Could this happen in your child support arrangement?
In Kayahan v. Kayahan, the parties were divorced in 2007. They had one child, “Dina”, who is now age 21. She graduated with an associate’s degree and soon after, Mr. Kayahan filed a motion to emancipate her with the court or, in the alternative, reduce his child support based upon his earning less (child support modification). The child support award was $242.00 per week, plus 50% of her educational expenses at community college.
Mr. Kayahan also asked the court that if he did have to continue to pay support that he be allowed to pay it directly to his daughter, rather than to Ms. Kayahan. Ms. Kayahan objected to stopping the child support payments because “Dina” was returning to school to obtain her bachelor’s degree at Stockton University. She also stated that she had her own financial downturn, and needed the child support for Dina, who would remain living with her while commuting to Stockton. The court agreed that “Dina” should not be emancipated, because she was continuing her education. The court also found that both mom and dad were going through financial difficulties and could not afford the same child support in 2015 as they could in 2012, when the most recent support order was entered.
The court commended “Dina” for continuing with her education while getting a job to help with her own expenses. And, the court understood Mr. Kayahan’s financial struggles: as a result, his child support was reduced to $125.00 per week plus $25.00 for back child support owed.
With regard to Mr. Kayahan paying “Dina” her child support directly, the court acknowledged that this arrangement is “unorthodox” but did cite to a recent, although somewhat ambiguous ruling in Jacoby v. Jacoby. In that case, the court found that in some circumstances, it may be more appropriate for a child to receive their court-ordered child support directly from mom or dad. Furthering this statement in Jacoby, the court in the Kayahan’s case found that it may be “logical, reasonable or fair” to have the child receive their support directly. The court believed that in certain situations, this arrangement could help a child who is mature and above 18 years of age learn about finances and budgeting. The court stressed having safeguards and accountability in place for the child to prevent unbridled spending.
The judge also found that having the money directly paid to the child could strengthen the bond between the child and the parent paying the support. The court reasoned that the parent and child would have continual ongoing discussion about the support leading to open communication and heightened awareness by the child that the parent is contributing to her support.
The judge did acknowledge the common concern that Ms. Kayahan still needs to maintain a household for “Dina” because she continues to live with her. The court found that to combat this, only a portion of the child support would go directly to the child, while the remainder would still go to mom.
The court also weighed other considerations such as the history of the parent making the payments (are they timely?) as well as the maturity level of the child.
What is important to note is that, in the end, the court in the Kayahan’s case did not allow Mr. Kayahan to pay child support directly to “Dina.” But, the reasoning for that was primarily financial. Because “Dina’s” parents were so financially strapped, and because Mr. Kayahan’s child support was reduced by nearly half, the court was afraid that if a portion of that support went to “Dina,” then Ms. Kayahan may not be financially able to keep the house or continue to provide for “Dina.”
The door has, indeed, been left open by Kayahan, however. The court clearly found that in some situations, direct pay of child support may be appropriate. But, the case is not published, meaning other courts cannot rely on it as set precedent.
What do you think? Should parents be permitted to pay their child support directly to their children? If you are facing child support or emancipation issues, please contact us to set up your initial consultation with our of skilled attorneys.