This case discusses the difficulty of successfully making a claim for undue hardship.
The parties never married nor lived together. They separated after a 10-year relationship and had four children together. The parties, at the time of this motion, had a temporary order which stipulated that the father shall pay $1,433/month in child support. The father then claimed reduced child support due to undue hardship on the basis that he had seven (7) other children, from three different mothers, that he needed to support.
Should the father’s claim to reduce his support based on undue hardship be granted?
The court began by reminding that establishing a successful undue hardship claim is very difficult, as they should be the exception, and not the norm.
A successful claim for undue hardship would have demonstrated that there are circumstances that could create undue hardship. Some examples are unusually high levels of debt and/or expenses or legal duty to support a child, other than a child of the marriage. The court iterated that these circumstances must show that it creates a hardship that is exceptional, excessive, or disproportionate, and not merely awkward or inconvenient.
The court stated that the father in this case had the onus of providing adequate supporting documentation to prove his undue hardship claim. Specifically, he had the obligation to provide cogent evidence from which the court may reasonably infer that the children of another family would suffer significant deprivation if the table amount of support were ordered for the children in this case.
The court was not convinced that the father would suffer from undue hardship by an Order to provide table child support to the children in this case. In coming to that conclusion, the court noted that the father did not pay support for the children in this case for many years and thus benefitted financially, quit his job in which he earned over $100,000, provided no relevant disclosure, and had expenses that considerably exceeded his income with no documentation to provide an explanation for same. In addition, the court factored in the father’s behavior regarding his children, which the court described as “flagrant” and “his own making” – the father kept having children that he was now claiming he cannot afford. The court found that the father was not paying support to any of his other children, and that a mere legal obligation to pay child support cannot be enough to constitute undue hardship.
This case reminds us that the threshold to meet for the test of undue hardship is a high and difficult one. It effectively reminds us that a party’s conduct can affect the court’s decision to recognize undue hardship, and that the claim must be substantiated by real evidence. It is important to speak to a family lawyer who can assess your situation and advise on the merits of a potential claim for undue hardship.
For more information, please call us at Feldstein Family Law Group P.C. or contact our firm online.