The Idleman Case
In 1988 Cynthia and Douglas Idleman married and eventually had two children, the younger of whom is autistic. Cynthia became a stay-at-home mom and Douglas worked at AT&T. In 1998 Douglas was “downsized” from his position at AT&T and received $350,000 in a buy out package.
Douglas and his wife used most of the $350,000 to purchase a $775,000 home in Denville, New Jersey and Douglas began his own business as a public relations and marketing consultant.
In 2002, Douglas was diagnosed with liver failure, and in 2003 underwent three transplants in three months, followed by months of hospitalization and rehabilitation. When Douglas had became too ill to work, his parents stepped in to pay the family’s bills.
Then in 2003 the couple separated and Douglas moved in with his parents, Lee and Sue Idleman, in Madison, New Jersey. Cynthia and the children continued to live in their Morris County home and her in-laws, the Idleman’s continued to pay the bills. Somewhere along the line, Cynthia racked up $45,000 in credit card charges.
Cynthia, 40 is now filing for divorce from Douglas, 43 and is suing her in-laws for support payments of about $20,000 per month. At this point you might be wondering why Cynthia believes, the heretofore generous grandparents, should be legally required to pay her $240,000 a year. (We also wondered, how much after taxes do you have to earn to give someone nearly a quarter mil per year? But, that’s another story.)The soon to be ex- Mrs. Idleman’s lawyer, Tom Snyder has the answer to our question:
He believes a judge could find the grandparents set the standard by supporting the family these years and must continue to do so. It is an argument often used in divorce cases, that the wife should be afforded the lifestyle she is accustomed to.
Douglas on the other hand claims his parents' financial support was temporary and once he is able to work he will provide for his sons. In the meantime:
Based on his current monthly income of $3,638 in Social Security and inheritance money, Idleman said he is only obligated to pay $70 a week in child support, but is willing to pay nearly $8,000 a month with help from his parents, according to court papers.
Another Cynthia Idleman requirement is continued support from New Jersey taxpayers:
Cynthia Idleman said she is most concerned about keeping her home in Denville, because the school system pays to send her younger son to a specialized program, where tuition is $45,000 a year.
What do the legal experts have to say about Cynthia’s lawsuit?
"I think it's a creative argument," said Ann Freedman, associate professor of law at Rutgers Law School in Camden, where she teaches family law. "It could go either way."
Charles Matison, president-elect of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said "it's a stretch," but a judge must weigh what's fair. One question judges consider is "will both people live a reasonably comparable lifestyle?"
"The judge is going to have to make some hard findings of fact, and some hard decisions," Matison said.
Interesting, no? New Jersey law does not require grandparents to pay support and yet somehow a judge could find otherwise? Well, why not? The law is merely a guideline and judges are free to make up laws from the bench to suit their personal concept of “fairness”. Don’t like it? You can always appeal to …Oh yea, another judge. No, the judiciary is not an out of control, unaccountable branch of government. This is just a conservative myth.
Now, if we were the judge, we’d have no trouble finding that Cynthia is not entitled to anything beyond the support her former husband can provide from his income. That’s the law.
We would remind the greedy ex-Mrs Idleman that she is free to accept the generous gift of $8,000 per month from her former in-laws, assuming the offer is still on the table. However, this judge will not order the grandparents to pay anything and any financial support she may receive from the elder Idleman’s is completely voluntary.
“It’s for the children” is a completely worn out canard and this judge is no longer fooled by the argument. The louder someone cries ‘it’s for the children” the more comfortable this judge becomes in finding otherwise.
We do have sympathy for the children in this case – the disability of the youngest child, the extremely ill father and a mother …. Better keep that thought to ourselves.
Doffing our black robes, we’d vote to kick Cynthia off the peninsula of New Jersey. The “reality show” that is New Jersey is beyond belief.
The New York Post article here and the Star-Ledger here.