M.J., Plaintiff–Respondent, v. T.M.P., Defendant–Appellant.

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Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.

M.J., Plaintiff–Respondent, v. T.M.P., Defendant–Appellant.

DOCKET NO. A–2411–12T1

    Decided: April 24, 2014

Before Judges Rothstadt and Lisa.T.M.P., appellant pro se.   Respondent has not filed a brief.

In this uncontested appeal, defendant T.M.P. appeals from the Family Part order of December 19, 2012 denying her motion for reconsideration of the November 2, 2012 order that determined a child support award.   The award was calculated pursuant to the child support guidelines, utilizing the shared parenting worksheet.   Defendant disputes two entries on the worksheet:  (1) Line 16 (child care expense), which is set at $152, and (2) Line 2a (plaintiff's federal and state income tax withholding), which is set at $559.   Defendant argues that these amounts should be $165 and $342, respectively.

We agree with defendant regarding Line 16.   With respect to Line 2a, we reject defendant's argument that $342 is the correct amount.   However, our review of the record persuades us that, within the narrow parameters we will discuss, reconsideration and clarification of this item is appropriate.   Accordingly, we remand for reconsideration of these two specific worksheet items and any resulting modification of the child support award that might result.

We need not discuss the extensive procedural history of this case.   The parties have been before the Family Part on numerous occasions.   The child support issue has been the subject of various motions and reconsideration motions.   There have been some errors in prior worksheets, and various corrections were agreed upon between the parties and implemented by the court.   The dispute has now been reduced to these two items, which we will discuss in turn.

The colloquy at the November 2, 2012 reconsideration motion hearing reveals that the child care expense had previously been $152 per week, but had increased to $165 per week.   Plaintiff's attorney did not dispute the increase.   On appeal, defendant has furnished us with copies of receipts and checks documenting the higher amount.   However, when the new worksheet was completed, the old figure of $152 was left unchanged, apparently through inadvertence.   This should be corrected to $165.

The issue regarding plaintiff's withholdings requires a bit more analysis.   The logical starting point is Line 1 of the worksheet, reflecting plaintiff's weekly gross taxable income at $1,995.   Defendant does not dispute that amount.   Our review of the November 2, 2012 transcript and the documents we have been furnished reveals the manner in which that was calculated.   It was based on a paystub for the pay period ending July 13, 2012, reflecting year-to-date earnings of $57,486.54.   That amount was divided by the twenty-nine weeks comprising the year-to-date earnings, which equaled $1,982.   At the hearing, plaintiff's attorney explained to the court that although plaintiff believed the correct figure was $1,982 per week, plaintiff had no objection to the court using the $1,995 figure that had been inserted into the worksheet.   Therefore, that amount remained on the worksheet without dispute.

Defendant uses that same paystub as a basis for her withholdings calculation.   She correctly notes that for that single two-week pay period, plaintiff's withholdings for federal and state income tax, FICA, and Medicare, totaled $684.71.   Defendant therefore argued that one-half of that amount, or $342, should have been entered on Line 2a for plaintiff as his weekly withholdings.

Defendant is incorrect.   Plaintiff did not earn the same amount in each pay period.   Indeed, for the two-week period ending July 13, 2012, his gross income was only $2,753.68, or $1,377 per week, far short of his twenty-nine week average of $1,982.   Therefore, defendant's argument lacks consistency and logic.   The paystub in question reflects year-to-date withholdings for those items to be $15,766.   When divided by the twenty-nine weeks, the weekly amount is $543.

As we have stated, the amount inserted into the worksheet was $559.   During the colloquy at the hearing, plaintiff's attorney commented that plaintiff's weekly deductions “are [$]550 a week not what the guidelines called for [$]525 so, I mean—.”  The judge then responded that “We're going to run it on a shared parenting worksheet with Dad, parent of alternate residence, gross taxable income of [$]1,995 and Mom, parent of primary residence of [$]763.”

On remand, the court should reconsider the $559 figure, within the order of magnitude we have just discussed, i.e. in the range of about $525 to $559.   We reiterate that the $342 amount urged by defendant lacks any meritorious basis, and it should not be part of the reconsideration of this item.

We therefore remand for reconsideration of these two items, within the very limited parameters we have outlined.   The parties shall be given notice and have a right to present oral arguments at a hearing.   The determination shall be made based upon the record as it existed in the trial court as of November 2, 2012, unless the court expressly authorizes any additional evidentiary submissions.

Remanded. We do not retain jurisdiction.


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