Michael J.D. v. Carolina E.P. 2016 NY Slip Op 0 01252
You are on very shaky ground when a court sanctions you for not following its orders. In this case, the Court sanctioned the Plaintiff, an attorney, and the non-custodial father of the child, because of failure to comply with discovery orders. The sanction was a drastic one. The father, among other things, was precluded from introducing evidence at trial concerning financial issues.
Not surprising, the father lost at trial and on an income of $128,741.40, the father was directed to pay basic child support of $21,886 per year, 100% of the child’s health insurance, unreimbursed medical costs and extracurricular activities cost. On top of that amount the father had to pay the full costs of the child attending Trinity School, a private school in New York City. According to Trinity school’s website, yearly tuition for a child attending its K – 11 program is $47,405 per year. So in sum the father had to give at least half of his income to the mother for child support.
You don’t need to be a lawyer to determine that this order, based only on the father’s income, was unreasonable. However, when a litigant acts in a manner that is unreasonable, a court may in turn make unreasonable decisions.
This case has a silver lining. The father appealed the judgement and the Appellate Court found for the father. The Appellate Court determined that, among other things, the father’s income was not sufficiently high that it alone provided sufficient basis for requiring private school for the child. Moreover, the court found that the other factors that are typically used to determine whether the non-custodial parent would be made to pay for private school, such as whether the child had any special needs or gifts, or whether the parties agreed that the child would attend private school and whether the child was already enrolled in private school was not present in this case. The lesson to be learned in this case is that courts expect that their orders will be followed, and if they are not followed you may not receive a fair hearing on the merits of your case.