FAMILY LAW - ALIMONY
20-2-7503 Raja v. Periyasamy, App. Div. (per curiam) (12 pp.) Defendant-husband appeals from a dual final judgment of divorce ordering him to pay $1452 per month in permanent alimony to plaintiff, his former spouse. According deference to the trial judge's factual findings and discretionary decisions, and finding that the judge properly considered the factors in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23b, the panel concludes that the judge did not err in deciding to award permanent alimony, rather than rehabilitative alimony, or in the quantum of the award and affirms.
FAMILY LAW - RELOCATION
20-2-7504 Parsons v. Forman, App. Div. (per curiam) (6 pp.) In this post-divorce matter, plaintiff, the custodial parent, appeals the denial of her motion seeking permission to relocate with the parties' son to Colorado. The panel reverses, finding that standing alone the effect of the relocation on defendant's parenting time was insufficient to justify denial of plaintiff's motion to relocate where she provided a good faith reason to relocate and the evidence satisfied the application Baures factors and defendant presented no alternative parenting-time schedule and no evidence that relocation and a change in his parenting-time schedule would be inimical to the child's best interests.
FAMILY LAW - CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
20-2-5788 N.J. Division of Youth And Family Services v. S.S., App. Div. (per curiam) (25 pp.) S.S. appeals from the Family Part's order, following a fact-finding hearing, determining she abused or neglected her three children by leaving them with relatives for a few days without contact information or information regarding her return, used marijuana on two occasions, and had unstable housing. She challenges the trial court's findings and aggregation of conduct as constituting neglect under Title 9. The appellate panel reverses, based on the lack of evidence and the hearsay evidence provided only through an intake worker's testimony. The panel finds DYFS failed to carry its burden of proving by a preponderance of the credible evidence that S.S. abused or neglected her children by leaving them with relatives for a three-day period with DYFS being unable to contact her, two positive marijuana screens within one week of each other, and her temporary lack of housing. [Filed April 4, 2012.]
FAMILY LAW - DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
20-2-5790 Talker v. Talker, App. Div. (per curiam) (3 pp.) In this appeal from a dual judgment of divorce, after reiterating the general rules that findings by the trial court are binding on appeal when supported by adequate, substantial, credible evidence, that the appellate panel is not bound by a trial court's interpretation of the law, that the legal consequences that flow from established facts are not entitled to any special deference but that the panel will reverse only to ensure that there is not a denial of justice because the family court's conclusions are clearly mistaken or wide of the mark, the panel concludes that defendant's arguments concerning equitable distribution, reimbursement alimony, child support and custody and parenting time reveal nothing so wide of the mark that a clear mistake was made and affirms. [Filed April 4, 2012.]
FAMILY LAW - DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
20-2-5791 B.B. v. M.B., App. Div. (per curiam) (8 pp.) Defendant appeals from a final restraining order issued pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The panel affirms, finding that the admission of testimony regarding defendant's cross-dressing was not plain error as it was not irrelevant, prejudicial or inflammatory where it was admitted as part of plaintiff's testimony regarding a relatively recent prior act of domestic violence, the trial court placed the evidence in proper perspective, and it was not the primary basis for the court's determination regarding defendant's lack of credibility. [Filed April 4, 2012.]
FAMILY LAW - CHILD SUPPORT
20-2-5622 Isaacson v. Isaacson, App. Div. (per curiam) (12 pp.) Defendant mother appeals from an order denying her motion for an increase in child support. The trial court decided that plaintiff "shared his financial wealth with them" sufficiently and that no increase in child support was required. The appellate panel agrees that defendant failed to establish that the needs of the children exceeded the amount of support paid. High income earners such as plaintiff are required to share their wealth with their children. But the extent of the obligation is circumscribed by the children's needs, even if defined more expansively than in the more typical situation. Here, plaintiff rightly paid all the expenses of the daughters' college educations, including spending money and trips abroad, while continuing to pay the full amount of child support. While there was a significant change in plaintiff's circumstances and there was no increase in child support precisely mirroring plaintiff's vast increase in income, a very significant increase in contribution occurred. The panel affirms the court's denial of defendant's motion.
FAMILY LAW- ABUSE AND NEGLECT
20-2-5490 New Jersey Division of Youth & Family Services v. A.L., App. Div. (per curiam) (11 pp.) Defendant appeals from an order finding that he neglected his children J.T. and B.T. by placing them at substantial risk of harm. Finding that the evidence supports a finding that J.T. was upset by her parents arguing in the car in which they were all riding, but that it is unclear if she witnessed his later holding a knife to his throat and threatening to kill himself and his family and that her statement that she was frightened came from a suggestive question from a case worker, that there is no evidence that her fright had any lasting impact on her, and that the record is replete with evidence that J.T. missed her father and wanted to spend more time with him, and that she resides in a home in which her mother completely discounted the possibility of any threat of harm to herself or her children by defendant, the panel holds that the record does not contain competent evidence to support a finding of neglect as a matter of law. It reverses the finding of abuse and directs that defendant's name be removed from the Central Registry.
FAMILY LAW - SPOUSAL SUPPORT - CHILD SUPPORT
20-25256 Morales v. Morales, App. Div. (per curiam) (13 pp.) Defendant appeals from two provisions of the Family Part's post-judgment order granting retroactive alimony and child support to his former wife, plaintiff, and requiring defendant to distribute additional funds from his 401K retirement account to plaintiff. Here, defendant's alimony and child support payments were not to commence until the marital residence was sold. In the interim, he was responsible for most expenses associated with the marital residence. That obligation arguably constituted support and was not subject to the automatic stay provisions of the Bankruptcy Code after Defendant filed bankruptcy. However, the distribution of defendant's 401K is not in the same category, and clearly implicated issues of equitable distribution, not spousal or child support. Thus, the court lacked jurisdiction to modify equitable distribution of the asset because the bankruptcy stay was in place at the time.
FAMILY LAW - ALIMONY - CHILD SUPPORT
20-2-5077 Villone v. Villone, App. Div. (per curiam) (12 pp.) Plaintiff, a former professional baseball player, appeals the denial of his application for modification of alimony and child support. Finding that the parties had agreed in their marital settlement agreement, which was incorporated into the judgment of divorce, to criteria to be applied for modifications of the support obligation based on changes in plaintiff's income or employment, and to certain triggers that, when met, would constitute the equivalent of a changed circumstances that would allow the court to consider modification without the necessity of the moving party showing additional changed circumstances, and that plaintiff has satisfied two of those triggers and the good cause standard applicable to his request for discovery and a plenary hearing, the panel reverses the denial of his request for discovery and a plenary hearing.
FAMILY LAW - DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
20-2-4202 E.E. v. J.M.E., App. Div. (per curiam) (20 pp.) Defendant appeals from a final restraining order obtained by his estranged wife. In determining to enter the restraining order, the judge found that defendant committed a predicate act of harassment by removing and keeping the parties' child in an unknown location and sending an email with the purpose to annoy and alarm plaintiff. While the court found that the incident was ambiguous standing alone, it qualified as harassment when viewed in light of prior acts of domestic violence. The court found that defendant's action went beyond "domestic contretemps." The appellate panel affirms, finding no error in the court's determination that defendant committed a predicate act of domestic violence and a final restraining order was needed to protect defendant from future acts of domestic violence.
Recent Appellate Division decision; EMB v. RFB, the court ruled that purported acts of theft by a son (56 years old) against his mother (88 years old) as well as the statement calling his mother, "a senile old b-tch" did not constitute an act of harassment within the meaning of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The Court noted that theft is not one of the predicate offenses included under the act. Moreover, to qualify as an act of domestic violence, the proofs would have to demonstrate that the thefts were committed with the purpose to alarm or seriously annoy the victim. Those proofs were lacking in this case. In terms of the "old b-tch" comment, the evidence did not support the requirement that the offending remark be made with a purpose to harass the victim as opposed to simply expressing the opinion of the speaker.