Social Security Benefits and Child Support

There are a number of different situations in which Social Security benefits impact child support orders. The extent of this impact depends, at least in part, on the type and amount of the Social Security benefits that the parent is receiving. These circumstances tend to be very fact-specific, but a parent’s receipt of Social Security benefits, in whatever form they may be, significantly affects the outcome of a child support order.

A parent can receive Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSD), or a combination of both. SSI is a means-tested government benefit for disabled individuals with very low incomes and a lack of a substantial work history that would qualify them for SSD. On the other hand, SSD is a government benefit that is not based on income. Rather, working individuals pay into Social Security through payroll deductions; later in life, if they become disabled and unable to work, they can receive SSD benefits in order to replace their employment income. Both of these types of Social Security benefits only are available for disabled individuals.

A parent’s SSI benefits are not considered income for the purposes of calculating child support obligations. Burns v. Edwards, 367 N.J. Super. 29 (App. Div. 2004). Therefore, a parent whose only income is SSI may not be ordered to pay child support. The only exception is if the parent also is able to earn or is earning income beyond what he or she receives in SSI. In that case, the additional income would be considered as income for that parent in setting a child support order.

SSD benefits, however, are counted as income for the purposes of calculating a parent’s child support obligation. Furthermore, when a parent receives SSD, the child also may be eligible for a direct benefit from the Social Security Administration (SSA). If the child receives this kind of benefit, it is subtracted from the disabled parent’s child support obligation. Herd v. Herd, 307 N.J. Super. 501 (App. Div. 1998). In some cases, the child will receive a substantial lump sum retroactive benefit. That sum is deducted from the parent’s child support obligation, but only for the period of time during which he or she was responsible for paying child support, and only for that amount of child support. Diehl v. Diehl, 389 N.J. Super 443 (App. Div. 2006).

The intersection of social security benefits and child support is a complex and non-routine matter that is likely to have a significant effect on both parents’ financial situations. We know how difficult and complicated child support cases can be, but we have the experience necessary to guide you through your case. Contact Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, today and we will show you how we can help with your New Jersey child support case. Our attorneys focus their practice primarily on family law and all legal issues related to children, so we are sure to have the skills that you need for proper representation in your family law case. We are here to answer your questions, settle your concerns, and assist you through the often difficult process of contested family law cases.

Easing Your Child’s Transition From One Home to Two Homes

A divorce or separation results in a great deal of change for a child, but perhaps one of the biggest challenges is successfully transitioning a child from having one home to having two homes. Particularly in the early stages of divorce, making a child feel comfortable in each parent’s separate residence can be tough. However, with some simple steps, you can ease your child’s transition between homes and help him or her become accustomed to having two different places to call home.

First, whether only one parent is establishing a new residence, or both parents have moved to new places, you should allow your child to participate in furnishing and decorating his or her own space. Give your child the chance to pick out paint colors, bedding, and wall décor, even if it wouldn’t be your choice of colors or style. Permitting your child to decorate his or her own bedroom can go a long way toward making the child feel comfortable in a new residence.

Next, take the time to make your new space familiar to your child in some ways. Let your child bring a bag with a treasured stuff animal or blanket back and forth between the two homes. Get a nightlight or lamp that is similar to what the child has at his or her other home. Try to work with your child’s other parent to split up or share familiar belongings between households, such as your child’s cups and dinnerware, favorite bath towel, and sports memorabilia. This allows your child to customize his or her surroundings with a mix of new and familiar items.

Keep some common items in both homes so that it isn’t a disaster if your child forgets an essential item. Stock both houses with a toothbrush and toiletries for your child, as well as extra sets of pajamas, underwear, and socks. Make sure your child has clothes in both places, extra pairs of shoes, and an extra jacket on in both houses, if it is possible to do so. This step can avoid many situations that might cause your child to become upset.

Divorces and separations are never easy, particularly for children. Even in the best of circumstances, children are likely to feel the stress of the situation. During times like these, it is hard to make the decisions that are truly best for you and your family, especially when it comes to legal matters that affect your children. It is in these kinds of cases that a New Jersey family lawyer can be most useful to you and truly make a difference in the outcome of your case. Visit our website at http://argentinolaw.com. You also can email us at info@argentinolaw.com, and one of our staff members will get back to you right away.

Mental Health and Child Custody Issues

If you are a parent, you know how difficult and demanding it is to be a parent, particularly at certain points in your child’s life. The responsibilities and stress involved in raising a child can be problematic for a parent with mental health issues. While there are many parents with mental health conditions who are great parents, the fact is that a parent’s mental health condition can negatively impact his or her ability to parent, especially if the condition remains untreated. As a result, a parent’s mental health condition, to the extent that it affects a parent’s fitness or ability to properly parent a child, is one of the factors that a New Jersey judge can and will consider in making a custody determination that is in a child’s best interests .

A parent with a mental health disorder does not automatically bar him or her from having custody of a child. The fact that a parent has a mental health condition does not necessarily mean that contact with that parent is not in the child’s best interests. So long as the parent can remain an active, involved parent while still managing his or her mental condition appropriately, and does not put the child at risk of physical or psychological harm, that parent’s mental health disorder may not affect his or her ability to obtain or maintain custody of a child.

In a child custody case, a judge is likely to consider the following issues related to a parent’s mental health:

  • The nature of the parent’s mental health condition
  • Whether the parent is compliant with the recommended course of treatment
  • The stability of the parent’s home environment
  • A history of the parent being hospitalized
  • Recommendations from mental health providers and custody evaluators

Child custody cases can become very emotional and difficult, and even more so when mental health issues are involved. We know how to handle child custody cases that involve mental health concerns and can help you work toward the most desirable outcome in your case. Whether your case involves mental health or another family law-related concern, our New Jersey child custody attorneys can guide you through every step of the proceedings necessary to resolving your legal matter. Our role is to be here to answer all of your questions, calm your concerns, present your potential options, and help you to make any necessary decisions in your case. At Argentino Family Law & Advocacy, LLC, we have represented the interests of countless families and children in all types of family law proceedings. Contact our office today at (973) 868-0958 or by e-mail at info@argentinolaw.com and set up a time to talk with us about your case.

Remedies Under the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act

The New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABR) (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et. seq.) establishes procedures for school districts and the New Jersey Department of Education to handle incidents of bullying, harassment, and intimidation. The ABR covers bullying incidents that take place on school grounds, at school events, on school buses, or even off school grounds, if the incident substantially interferes or disrupts school operations or the rights of other students. In order to qualify as bullying, the incident must be reasonably perceived as being motivated by race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, a mental, physical, or sensory disability, or any other distinguishing characteristic.

Under the ABR, a school district must immediately notify the parents of all suspected offenders and suspected victims as soon as possible following a complaint of bullying. If the complainant is a school employee, contractor, or volunteer, the complainant must create a written report. A school official must begin an investigation into the incident no later than one school day following the report, and the investigation must be complete within ten school days of the written report. The Chief School Administrator (CSA) then must take one of the following actions:

  • Impose discipline
  • Provide intervention services
  • Create training programs related to bullying
  • Order counseling
  • Take any other action necessary to address the incident and prevent future incidents

Next, the CSA must report the incident and the results of the investigation to the Board of Education by the first board meeting following the completion of the investigation. Within five days after the results of the investigation are reported to the Board of Education, the CSA must provide information regarding the investigation and its outcome to the parents.

If parents are unhappy with the investigation or its outcome, they have the right to request a hearing before the Board of Education. See Guidance for Parents on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. A hearing must be held within ten days of the date that a parent requested it. Following the hearing, the Board of Education must produce a written decision that either upholds, rejects, or changes the CSA’s decision. If the parents disagree with the Board’s decision, they can further appeal to the Commission of Education within 90 days of the Board’s decision. Parents who are dissatisfied with the Commission’s decision then can appeal to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.

Parents have other options to protect their students’ rights, as well. For instance, a parent could file a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights Under the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), if there is reason to believe that the bullying was motivated by one of LAD’s bias categories. Parents also can take their complaints and concerns to their county office of education, which is the representative of the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) in each county. If they believe that there has been a violation of the law, parents also have the option of calling the police and reporting the alleged crime.

At Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC , our attorneys are here to handle all of the different issues that involve families and children, including bullying. We understand how difficult and stressful these types of cases can be in some situations, but we are here to help guide you through these and any other family-related legal proceedings that you may be facing. Contact our offices today to schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced New Jersey lawyers and see what we can do to help with your case.

Why Should I Ask the Court to Seal the Record for My Child’s Name Change?

As a general rule, records of a child’s name change are open to the public. New Jersey law generally requires that the proposed name changes of both adults and children be published in order to provide public notice to creditors and other interested parties. However, there are situations in which a court may seal its records of a child’s name change, as well as eliminate the publication requirement for a name change case. Normally, notice of the name change must be published twice in a newspaper of general circulation, once prior to the name change hearing and once after the name change hearing.

At least one New Jersey case, The Application of E.F.G. to Assume a New Name, 398 N.J. Super. 539 (App.  Div. 2008), provides that public notice of a name change through publication may not be a requirement in some circumstances, such as when the person seeking to change his or her name has been a victim of domestic violence. If a victim’s right to protect himself or herself and his or her identity is a sufficiently compelling interest, the court also can order that the court records relating to the name change be sealed, which means that they are not available for public viewing. New Jersey Rule of Court 1:2-1. This precaution prevents the abusive person from discovering the current address and new name of the victim. If you are seeking to seal name change records for your child, you must demonstrate a well-founded concern for your child’s safety if his or her name change records were to be made public. Therefore, if a child has suffered past abuse or violence at the hands of a parent, relative, or other adult, it may be in the child’s best interests for the court records to be sealed.

The New Jersey family law attorneys at Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, are eager to answer your questions and help you understand the procedures for changing your child’s name, as well as sealing the court record. As your attorneys, we will focus on how best to represent your interests and achieve your desired goals. We have handled countless name change, parentage, divorce, and other family law proceedings over the years, and we will work with you to create the best strategy possible in your case. Call our offices today at (973) 868-0958 and learn how we can help you with your New Jersey family law case.