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Disabled Father Gets Child Support Arrears Reduced

father's rights attorneysSection 451 of the New York Family Court Act states arrears on child support will only be modified from the date the petition to reduce them is filed. This means in the event you have a heart attack and/or are sick in the hospital for six months, and thereafter you file a downward modification for child support, you only get the downward modification from the date you filed the petition, not as of the time six months ago when you were hospitalized with a heart attack. This makes no sense!

A lawsuit was brought on behalf of a father to cap his child support arrears at $500. The father had suffered a heart attack. He was rendered disabled. He couldn’t work. Eventually his income fell below the poverty level. It took him months to become healthy enough to file a petition in the Family Court for the reduction of his child support arrears. Upon taking this action, the Family Court denied his application and said pay up.

Appeal to the Appellate Division

An appeal was brought to the Appellate Division of the Second Department (an appeals court). The Appellate Division held since the petitioner was impoverished before petitioning for relief “the prohibition against reduction of accrued arrears contained in Family Court Act section 451 is not triggered because there was no accrued arrears in excess of $500 to reduce.”

This decision helped establish that disabled parents who cannot work, and cannot initially petition for the reduction of their child support obligations are still entitled to the reduction as of the date of their disability, not the date they bring the petition. Child support payments should not be allowed to have an unfair impact on disabled and/or indigent parents.

child support assistance for fathersThe writer has been helping fathers with child support problems for more than 35 years.

About Elliot S. Schlissel

Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq. has spent more that 30 years representing individuals in matrimonial and family law cases.