The answer is “yes.” A New Jersey court can compel a parent to carry life insurance for the benefit of a child, even though the parent never carried life insurance before. However, the determination is obviously fact sensitive and must take into consideration the financial circumstances of the parties.
The obligation to support a child is more multi-faceted then just a paying a set sum each week. Included in the obligations of a parent are the obligation to provide health care insurance; the obligation to provide for a child’s education; and the obligation to protect the child’s source of support in the event of the death of a parent. This latter protection is most often provided through the vehicle of life insurance.
Furthermore, New Jersey has a specific statute that compels a parent, once a divorce, nullity, or separate maintenance action has been filed, to maintain life insurance coverage, pending the outcome of the action. Of course, either party may apply to the court to have the financial burden shared, or shifted to the other party.
The question of whether a wife can compel her ex-husband to name her as the beneficiary of the policy is more problematic. A court will often order that the wife be named as a beneficiary in her capacity as trustee for the children as opposed to being a beneficiary in her own right. Furthermore, in many cases the court will order that another person, such as an individual trustee or a bank, be named as a beneficiary.
Joseph Weinberg is a senior partner of the Haddonfield, NJ-based firm of Weinberg, McCormick, Chatzinoff & Zoll. He has practiced family law in New Jersey for more than 35 years and has received numerous honors for his dedicated commitment to the practice of family law; Weinberg was recently recognized as one of the “Ten Leaders of Matrimonial and Divorce Law of Southern New Jersey”.