Once again Justice Matt Cooper has been affirmed. In Brown v. Condzal (First Department March 29, 2016) the Appellate Division held that the obligation contained in a settlement agreement incorporated into a divorce judgment to pay private school tuition is enforceable as a "child support" obligation and correctly characterized as such by the trial court. The trial court granted a $56,326.66 money judgment with pre-judgment interest and a $30,000 counsel fee for the wife's attorneys. Not unlike the recent decision in the Frankel case, where the appellate court held that there are no magic words required to exclude temporary spousal maintenance from the meaning of a prenuptial agreement, the appellate court held that the explicit reference to private school tuition is "child support" under the statute, noting that the parents are permitted by Domestic Relations Law § 240(1-b)(h), to define their respective child support obligations by the terms of their separation agreement, rather than by the court's application of the statutory guidelines.
New York parents who are involved in child support disputes may wonder about the usefulness of incarceration as a penalty for failure to meet support obligations. While some media outlets suggest that imprisonment is an effective incentive for individuals who have the means to pay, it has been argued that the punishment often creates a cycle that allows the payer's debt to grow to unmanageable levels.