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October 2016 Archives

You Can't Force A Parent To Contribute To A Child's College If You Don't Include Him or Her In The Decision Process

college fair.pngAn October 19 th New Jersey Appeals Court decision confirmed that a
custodial parent of a child can't force the noncustodial, largely uninvolved one, to
pay toward a child's college expenses if that parent isn't included in the decision
making process, and after the child incurs the college tuition debt.
The mother and father in this case never married and had a daughter in
1991. She lived with and was cared for by her mother, but both parents
informally dealt with her financial needs. In June 2009, when the daughter was a
senior in high school, the mother got a court order for child support, amounting to
about $7000 annually. The daughter and her father were never close or involved
in each other's lives. But he paid the child support in full and on time.
The child got her bachelor's degree and then her master's degree,
accumulating over $100,000 in debt. The parents agreed to emancipate her
(declare her as no longer financially dependent on them) as of January 30, 2015.
By this time, she had completed her graduate degree.
Two days before the emancipation went into effect, the mother applied to
the Court to force the father to contribute to his daughter's over $100,000 school
debt. She asked the court to consider the Newburgh test (a court-created
analysis to determine whether a non-custodial parent must contribute to college
expenses), but the court refused to do so because "the ... judge principally
determined that [the mother] had filed her application far too late, years after the
child had already incurred her five years of undergraduate and graduate
The Appeals Court agreed, saying that "Depending upon the
circumstances, a parent's appropriate contribution level could be zero ... where
the defendant father had no meaningful role in his daughter's life and was
excluded from her college-selection process." The Court also said that a
custodial parent should make her or his application for a college contribution
before the expenses are incurred.
In this case, the father had no meaningful participation in any of the post
high school education plans of his daughter. He was only asked to contribute
after she had completed graduate school, and a mere two days before her
emancipation. Both the lower court and the Appeals Court agreed that the
mother's application was far too late for the Newburgh test to even be
considered. Evan Xavier Bakhet is a J.D. Candidate at Rutgers School of Law-
Newark with a scheduled graduation date in 2017. He collaborated with me on
this blog. 

You Don't Necessarily Leave Your Lover By Dying

couurt.pngEarlier this month, a New Jersey Appeals Court agreed with the decision of a
lower court judge who awarded $444,000 to the paramour of her deceased
former lover. The trial took 24 days.
In 1995, the girlfriend, a Ms. Soskina, contributed $20,000 toward the purchase
of a Florida condo, with the promise from her lover, Mr. Turyan, that she would
get back her contribution, plus 20% of the net profit, when it was sold. Of course,
he was not there to disagree with that claim.
His Estate claimed that an undocumented $29,000 uncashed check was a
"settlement" of those claims. The trial court found that it was ridiculous that the
dead man, an astute businessman, would not document an important thing like
that. The Appeals Court agreed.
On his deathbed, in the presence of multiple witnesses with his words put into
writing, Turyan instructed a business associate who owed him money to pay
Soskina $300,000. Instead, the business associate paid $359,000 to Turvan's
family. The trial court said that $300,000 of that was supposed to go to Ms.
Soskina. It also "found incredible the claim that the money represented a new
business investment, for which there was no documentation."
In addition to $394,000, the lower court also awarded $50,000 in legal fees to
Soskina. The Appeals Court said that it would never overturn such an award,
except where there is a "clear abuse of discretion" by the trial judge.
Lesson? If you've got a girlfriend or boyfriend on the side, better put your
intentions in writing, one way or the other. You never know when it's "time to go"
and you could be leaving a big and expensive headache for your family. Evan
Xavier Bakhet is a J.D. Candidate at Rutgers School of Law-Newark with a
scheduled graduation date in 2017. He collaborated with me on this blog. 

If You Sue for Defamation, You'd Better Prove You Were Harmed

reviews.pngA recent New Jersey Appeals Court decision, Scaccia v. J.M., dealt with a case in which a licensed cosmetic surgeon performed services for in 2007, including rhinoplasty and chin augmentation. The doctor noted that the patient recovered well, and that the surgery was a success. The patient returned once more for his medical chart, but otherwise had no further contact with the surgeon.

A Custodial Parent Can't Just Move A Child Out Of State

movingvan.jpgNew Jersey has long been very protective of the shared equal rights of divorced/separated parents to their children. Under the law (N.J.S.A. 9:2-2), a Court that has authority over the custody and maintenance of children will not allow them to be removed from the state except where the child (of suitable age) or his/her parents consent. Absent consent, a parent must ask the court, and show good cause, to move the child.

Court Gives A Lesson in Dealing With Discrimination Claims

descrim.pngA recent New Jersey trial court decision reaffirmed the high burden for bringing a claim against an employer for hostile work environment. C.B, a teacher with lupus (an incurable inflammatory disease causing fatigue, joint pain, rash, and fever), brought claims against her school district under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (LAD). She relied on a series of grievances and incidents, many of which were unrelated to her illness. Both the New Jersey Division On Civil Rights and the Court agreed that the incidents simply did not create a hostile work environment, because of their distance in time and relatively innocuous nature.

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