One of the questions that non-custodial parents in New Jersey often ask is whether they can avoid paying child support to the custodial parent by paying it directly to the child instead.
Until recently, the answer has been no. Now, the answer is “maybe,” thanks to the recent unreported decision of Kayahan v. Kayahan.
In Kayahan, the parties had one child, Dina, who was twenty-one years old. Dina had recently graduated from community college with an associate’s degree. Dina’s father filed a Motion to emancipate her, based upon her graduation from school. That Motion was denied, because Dina was continuing on to a four-year degree program. Notably, Dina also worked a part-time clerical job to supplement her income and defray her personal expenses.
Although the Judge denied the father’s request, he did reduce the father’s child support as a result of the significant decrease in income experienced by the father. During the plenary hearing, the father had offered to pay his child support directly to Dina, instead of to the mother, who was the custodial parent.
In analyzing whether the direct payment of child support could be acceptable, the Judge stated that in certain cases, where a child was over the age of eighteen and not emancipated and that child has demonstrated an appropriate level of responsibility with handling money, it may be appropriate for a Court to award part of a child support payment directly to the child. The Judge noted that such an arrangement might be a valuable learning experience for a young adult in managing his or her own expenses.
The Court also noted that some parents would be better candidates for this type of arrangement than others. A noncustodial parent who has been tardy in making child support payments, or who has willfully refused to pay support in the past, would be considered a bad candidate.
In addition, as part of its inquiry into whether the direct payment to the child of some portion of child support is appropriate, the Judge said that a court must take into account the amount of support that still remains to be paid to the custodial parent. If the custodial parent would not receive enough child support to meet basic living expenses of the child’s home if a portion was diverted directly to the child, the Judge noted that direct payment may not be appropriate.
The Judge declined to allow the father to make direct payments of support to his daughter for just this reason. Because the Court was reducing the father’s child support payments from $242 per week to $125 per week, the Court feared that the mother would not be able to maintain the child’s home on support that was even further reduced.
However, this case opens up the possibility that in an appropriate case, New Jersey courts may find it appropriate to allow non-custodial parents to pay a portion of their child support obligations directly to a responsible, unemancipated child who is at least eighteen years of age.
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