Constructive Trusts and Child Support Attorneys Brick and Sea Girt NJ
A constructive trust is a judicially imposed remedy used to prevent unjust enrichment when one party wrongfully retains title to the property.
If you are involved in a dispute with your ex-spouse and you believe he or she is recklessly spending the money from joint accounts and/or unethically taking money from savings, such as college funds for children, an appropriate remedy could be the imposition of a constructive trust over his or her share of the assets (i.e., restraining his or her share of the assets to secure future payment).
What Is A Constructive Trust?
A constructive trust is a judicially imposed remedy used to prevent unjust enrichment when one party wrongfully retains title to the property. As the Supreme Court has held, this “is a fiction of equity created for the purpose of preventing unjust enrichment by one who holds legal title to property which, under principles of justice and fairness, rightfully belongs to another. A constructive trust is one that arises by operation of law against one who, by fraud, actual or constructive, by duress or abuse of confidence, by the commission of a wrong, or by any form of unconscionable conduct or questionable means, has obtained or holds the legal right to property which he ought not to have.
How Has the Court Dealt with Constructive Trusts and Child Support?
In D.M.H. v. H.G.H. NO. A-4267-17T2 (App. Div., June 12, 2020), a case argued recently in New Jersey, the defendant alleged that due to the termination of his six-figure salary and the change of technology that impacted his current employment, making alimony and child support payments was now an impossibility. However, the plaintiff demonstrated at trial that the defendant had taken money out of their accounts while in Europe to pay an alleged debt, had gambled away money, and had withdrawn $77,000 from the children’s college savings account. It was also proven that the defendant had removed nearly $15,000 in cash from ATM machines in nearby casinos. The defendant assured the court that all of the withdrawn funds were used to repay heavy debts but was unable to produce adequate documentation with which to substantiate the debts or document the repayment of the same. After considering the money Defendant had spent and his failure to contribute toward his children’s support, the court deemed it necessary to impose a constructive trust over his share of the assets to secure his future payment of child support and other financial obligations.
If the claimant cannot demonstrate that a constructive trust is appropriate, then a money order is usually awarded instead. The Court has stated that in family situations when determining the amount of a monetary award for an unjust enrichment claim:
A claim may be made for a constructive trust, giving one partner the right to live in the family home or the right to divide property, if:
- the couple share custody of a child and lived together in a relationship of some permanence, or
- one partner contributed financially to the home by paying part of the mortgage, property taxes, repairs or upkeep, and so on.
Generally speaking, the longer the relationship between unmarried cohabitees or common-law partners the more likely there is a remedy. Obtaining these rights, however, usually requires hiring a lawyer and often results in going to court. Division of property in a common-law relationship can be extremely complicated.
What Is My Next Step?
While the imposition of a constructive trust is not commonplace, there are specific factual circumstances that may necessitate it. If you believe that the specific facts in your matter require the imposition of a constructive trust, you should discuss it with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.
When going through a separation, divorce, or child custody it is important to make sure you are protecting your and your children’s financial future. Our experienced family law lawyers can provide information, legal assistance, and advice when you need it most.
Contact a Monmouth County Child Support Attorney Today
If you are considering hiring a lawyer to represent you, for legal advice and assistance regarding child support and unjust enrichment and constructive trust claims, and other family law matters, contact Peter Bronzino at our law offices located in Ocean and Monmouth counties. Call us at (732) 812-3102 or contact us online. We look forward to helping you resolve all of your legal issues with personalized, experienced service.