A New Jersey judge recently gave a surprising ruling, deciding that under certain circumstances, a noncustodial parent can make some child support payments directly to his or her un-emancipated child over the age of 18.
The case, Kayahan v. Kayahan, involved two divorced parents and their 21-year-old daughter. The father, who was the noncustodial parent, asked the Court for a change in his child support payments after his income decreased. He also asked that he be able to pay the support directly to his daughter. Ultimately, the judge decided that in this particular case, the father's child support could be lowered because of his changed financial circumstances, but he could not pay his daughter directly because the daughter still lived with the mother and the mother needed those payments to maintain the household.
Although the father in this case was unable to pay his child support payments directly to his child, the judge still made an important ruling - because his decision listed circumstances in which it would be appropriate for child support payments to go directly to the child. Those include:
The child's maturity level
Whether the child has demonstrated financial responsibility
Whether the noncustodial parent is able to make child support payments on time
How badly would direct child support payments to the child affect the custodial parent's ability to maintain a household
The judge noted that any concerns another judge - or the custodial parent - might have with these new arrangements could be addressed by specific instructions from the judge. Also, he made sure to emphasize that child support would by no means act as an allowance, but rather than the noncustodial parent just being seen as "just a wallet," this arrangement would allow that parent to remain actively engaged in their child's life.
Although this case cannot be cited as precedent, it shows that Family Court judges have very broad authority to approach specific circumstances with unique solutions that they think is best and the most fair to solve the controversy, rather than using a "cookie cutter" approach to each case. Kieu-Nhi Le, Rutgers School of Law Newark candidate for a JD degree in May 2016. She is the Managing Business Editor of the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal collaborated with me on this blog.