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Should a man who retired early with a silver parachute have to go to back to work to pay increased child support? Or should his former wife be made to tap into the fortune she won in the divorce? In Caplan v. Caplan, A-57-03, two former spouses are dueling over the father’s child-support obligation. Craig Caplan had made a good living as an investment banker and was worth about $4.5 million. But he had been laid off as part of his bank’s reduction in force and decided to retire in his 30s. When divorce was granted in 2001, a trial judge set $8,600 a month as the amount the couple’s two children should receive and made Craig responsible for two-thirds. Sandra Caplan, who never worked during the marriage, appealed and the Appellate Division ruled that since Craig was of working age and employable, he should shoulder nearly all the child support. During oral arguments last week before the New Jersey Supreme Court, Craig Caplan’s attorney, James Yudes, said the appellate ruling ignored Sandra Caplan’s actual financial situation. True, she didn’t work, but as a result of the divorce settlement, she’s worth about $2.4 million. “Does one need to work when there is no need to work?” asked Yudes, a Springfield, N.J., solo. Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto asked whether the courts should look at the earning potential of both parents in determining child support. “One has a duty to work if they are not working if it affects the marital lifestyle while still married,” Yudes said. Yudes won no friend in Rivera-Soto when he went on at length about how early retirement at a comfortable lifestyle is part of the American dream — one that should not be thwarted by child support. The court’s newest justice was visibly irked when Yudes failed to break off his soliloquy to answer a direct question on where the bright line should be drawn in fixing each parent’s support obligation. “You’re here to answer our questions,” said Rivera-Soto. “When you see any justice attempt to get your attention, you should stop.” Yudes apologized, and said the line should be reasonable. In this case, Craig Caplan had agreed to meet the lion’s share of the support amount set by the judge and had given up the marital home. Because of Sandra Caplan’s wealth, earned largely by Craig, she should be required to contribute at least a third, Yudes said. Sandra Caplan’s lawyer, Kingston, N.J., solo Dale Console, said the rules determining child support were clear: If an obligor has voluntarily chosen not to work, the amount he or she is required to pay can be imputed and if that person has to return to the workforce, so be it. “Mr. Caplan is not retired,” she said. “He was told he was going to be downsized. He lost his job.”

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