Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Emancipation Abides The Jurisdiction At The Time Of Application

Lawson Scott Glassergreen sought to have his oldest child emancipated. Although Amy Glasser and Glassergreen were married in New Jersey, they divorced in Colorado. Plaintiff, Glasser, resides in New Jersey and the Defendant resides in Kentucky. Their oldest child attends an out-of-state Ivy League university and the youngest attends vocational school in Arizona and both reside with the Plaintiff when they are not in school. Defendant moved, in the New Jersey Superior Court, to have the parties’ oldest child emancipated. The parties Colorado Order which established the Defendant’s support obligations was registered in New Jersey. The Defendant argued that Colorado law requires emancipation at the age of 19 but the Superior Court of New Jersey obtained modification and enforcement jurisdiction over the matter in 2007 and, therefore, the age of emancipation is dictated by the laws of New Jersey. The Appellate Division affirmed the denial of the Defendant’s Motion. If you are seeking the emancipation of a child, or trying to prevent the premature emancipation of a child, you should seek an experienced family law attorney to assist you in your matter. The laws are subject to change and there are many nuances easily overlooked when researching the matter. For more information on emancipation or other family law matters, visit DarlingFirm.com or call 973-584-6200 now to learn your rights. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Alimony Suspended While Wife is Ward of The State

In M.J. v. K.J., Plaintiff with significant mental health issues sought to reinstate alimony retroactively while still under state supervision after commitment to a state mental health facility. Plaintiff and Defendant married in 1989 and had three children. Over time, Plaintiff became increasingly non-compliant with prescription medication for mental health issues. In 2009, Plaintiff attempted suicide and was admitted to a mental health facility and diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. Plaintiff’s failure to take her medication resulted in increasingly inappropriate behavior including stalking her chiropractor, for which she was ultimately incarcerated and an order of protection was issued against her. In 2009, Plaintiff filed for divorce and the parties entered into a consent order giving Defendant and the children exclusive possession of the marital home. Plaintiff broke in and, upon arrest, was admitted to a mental health facility. Plaintiff violated a TRP the Defendant obtained and continued to harass the Defendant throughout the divorce proceedings. The divorce called for the Plaintiff to have supervised parenting time with the parties’ youngest child and the two older children would make their own decisions with regard to visitation. Defendant was required to pay Plaintiff $2,000 monthly until either party’s death, Plaintiff’s remarriage or co-habitation with an unrelated adult or Defendant’s retirement. The Plaintiff continued to violate the FRO and was sentenced to 180 days incarceration during which Defendant’s alimony obligation was suspended for as long as Plaintiff was incarcerated or institutionalized. Plaintiff was released and reoffended by violating the restraining order multiple times with the last event occurring when Plaintiff appeared at Defendant’s workplace and pointed what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun at him. He ran off calling the police as he fled and police found Plaintiff with what turned out to be an unloaded BB gun made to look real. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital and then incarcerated. The court ordered alimony suspended for the duration of the incarceration stemming from the fake handgun incident. Plaintiff was ultimately acquitted by reason of insanity and placed in Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital. Per State v. Krol, 68 N.J. 236 (1975), the court found that it was a matter of fundamental fairness to suspend the alimony payments of Defendant indefinitely, without accrual of arrears, as the Plaintiff was a ward of the State. In light of the egregious effect that Plaintiff’s actions had on the Defendant, the court did indicate that, upon the Plaintiff’s release from Greystone, the Defendant could petition the court for termination of alimony obligation. Further, the court denied the Plaintiff’s motion to modify the FRO permitting her to communicate with her children. Upon Plaintiff’s release from Greystone, she remained under the court’s jurisdiction with the requirements that she attend treatment and take her medication. Plaintiff again sought modification of the FRO to allow for parenting time and to reinstate the alimony obligation. The court held that, as the State was meeting her needs, it would be inequitable for the Defendant to pay alimony. On Plaintiff’s appeal, the appellate division affirmed indicating that the FRO was not properly placed before them and the Plaintiff had no need for alimony as the State continued to meet her financial needs. If you have a family law matter or are looking to modify an existing alimony order, you should seek an experienced family law attorney. To learn about your rights in a particular situation, visit DarlingFirm.com or call 973-584-6200 now to schedule a consultaion. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

Friday, April 12, 2019

FRO Issues After Terroristic Threats In Courthouse

A.M.C. v. A.M.A. involved a Final Restraining Order (FRO) between unmarried parties with a 13 year old son in common. As the parties had a relationship at one time, the matter fell within the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PVDA) (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35). There was a substantial amount of litigation between the parties and a court proceeding in that matter took place wherein it was decided that the parties would participate in reunification therapy for the child and Defendant to rebuild their relationship. Immediately thereafter, the Defendant is reported to have shouted vindictive statements at the Plaintiff and threatened that he would kill her. The Plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) which was granted that day. The TRO complaint alleged harassment (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4) and terroristic threats (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3). On March 15, 2018, a FRO was entered by the Family Part judge after testimony was presented by both parties including testimony about past physical abuse and verbal abuse by Defendant against Plaintiff. The Family Part judge found the Plaintiff to be credible in her testimony and refused to accept the Defendant’s proffer that the Plaintiff only filed the domestic violence complaint to gain an advantage in the ongoing custody battle. The Defendant also included that the parties live an hour apart and the Plaintiff has sole custody of the child as a reason that a FRO was unnecessary but the court felt that the Plaintiff had a reasonable fear of the Defendant. It was on the grounds of distance and the fact that the parties have no ongoing relationship that the Defendant appealed. The Appellate Division looked to the two-part analysis required under the PVDA pursuant to Silver v. Silver, 387 N.J. Super. 112 (App. Div. 2006). First, the Plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that at least one of the predicate acts set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a) has occurred. In this case, the act was harassment. Second, the court must find that a restraining order is necessary to protect the victim based on the factors included in N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(a)(1) to – 29(a)(6). The Appellate Division determined that, although the parties were separated by some distance, they would be interacting as a result of the reunification therapy and protection was reasonable. The Appellate Division affirmed. If you are in fear and seeking a restraining order or defending against one, you should speak to an experienced attorney to determine what your rights are under the PVDA and whether you are likely to succeed in your case. To learn more about restraining orders visit DarlingFirm.com or for representation now, call us at 973-584-6200 to schedule a consultation. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Parties' Own Knowing Agreement, Absent Fraud, Prevails In Emancipation

In Longer v. Nace, Robert Nace sought to emancipate the parties’ daughter, as the parties’ separation agreement entered at the time of their divorce, defined emancipation as attaining the age of 18 years or completing college. Plaintiff, Nina Longer, opposed the motion based on N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.67 providing for child support until the age of 23 years. The daughter was enrolled full-time in a master’s degree program and living at home at the time. Plaintiff was not seeking contribution to the daughter’s tuition, only that child support continue. Under Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982) the court denied the motion for emancipation. Robert Nace and Nina Longer divorced in 2002 with a property settlement agreement after eleven years of marriage. The children were ten and seven at the time of the divorce. The parties agreed to share equally the cost of all post-secondary education for the children. The parties further agreed that child support would terminate upon each child’s attaining the age of 18 years or completing college, the last of which occurs. The parties shared the costs of college for the children and the Defendant moved to emancipate the daughter upon her completing college, in accordance with the property settlement agreement. On appeal, the appellate division determined that the court below failed to properly apply Newburgh, which is to be applied only when tuition for the child is being sought and that the court should have enforced the property settlement agreement that the parties knowingly and voluntarily entered into which, on its face did not have any appearance of impropriety and therefore reversed the decision of the trial court with regard to the motion. If you are interested in emancipating a minor or preventing a minor from being emancipated early, visit DarlingFirm.com or call 973-584-6200 now to schedule a consultation. This blog is for informational purposes and not intended to replace the advice of counsel.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Final Restraining Order Issues Upon Multiple Acts of Harassment

C.L.H. v. T.F.H. is about Defendant’s appeal of a final restraining order (FRO) entered against him upon his estranged wife’s request that the Court enter and order for same under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. Defendant appealed on four points: (1) Ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) allegations of trial court error in allowing “authentication” of a perceived no contact order; (3) a conflict between testimony and the checked “No previous acts of Domestic Violence” section; and (4) lack of evidence regarding intent or predicate acts. Under the PDVA, Plaintiff was entitled to protections, as long as the other criteria were met, based on her marriage to the Defendant. The remaining criteria, set forth in Silver v. Silver, 387 N.J. Super. 112 (App. Div. 2006), were also satisfied. First, the evidence demonstrated, by the requisite preponderance of the evidence standard, three acts that constituted harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4(c), a predicate act under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a). Specifically, (1) the Defendant entered Plaintiff’s car while she was in church and removed an item; (2) the Defendant sent Plaintiff a text asking when she would return from a trip that he had never been notified she was taking; and (3) discovered and drove to the location Plaintiff was staying to see whether she was there. During questioning in this regard, the trial judge found the Defendant’s explanations to amount to admissions of guilt committed with the clear intent to harass the Plaintiff. With regard to the second prong of Silver, the trial judge determined that, in light of confrontations between the parties, the Plaintiff’s fear of the Defendant was reasonable and a FRO was required to protect the Plaintiff from the Defendant. The Appellate Division determined the trial judge exercised sound discretion in rendering the opinion below and affirmed, also noting that ineffective assistance of counsel is inapplicable to the matter at hand. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Grandparents' Rights Follow Specific Facts

In the grandparent rights case of C.C. v. M.H., Plaintiffs C.C. and D.C. sought visitation under the Grandparent Visitation Act, N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1.2. The Plaintiffs based their case on the claim they were “psychological parents” to their grandchildren. Defendants have two children, ages 2 and 3. In 2013, Plaintiffs began caring for their grandchildren two days per week and they were being cared for by a nanny, and later in pre-school, three days per week. The parties dispute whether the Plaintiffs contributed some financial support to the grandchildren but do not dispute that Plaintiffs took the entire family on a vacation to Disney World. During the vacation, Plaintiffs and Defendants had a serious falling out over M.H.’s relationship with S.H. Thereafter, the grandchildren were enrolled in full-time pre-school and the Defendants relocated to a new community which Plaintiffs considered too far to visit. By September 2016, there was no contact between the Plaintiffs and grandchildren. The Plaintiffs complaint for visitation included that they “enjoyed a loving and caring relationship with their grandchildren since their birth on a daily basis”, “seeing them multiple times per week”, overnights as needed when the Defendants wanted to go out, family vacations and the like. Plaintiffs also contended that it would be likely the children would suffer irreparable harm if contact between the grandchildren and Plaintiffs was not restored. In support of their argument, Grandparents submitted a report from a psychologist that never met the grandchildren which provided generalizations in favor of the Plaintiffs’ case. Defendants filed replies and a cross-motion for restraints to keep the Plaintiffs away from the children. Defendants described the way Plaintiffs would start arguments with the Defendants in front of the children and the fact that the Defendants feared that the children would be exposed to similar treatment. The Defendants greatly disputed the amount of time with and care from the Plaintiffs. Defendants also filed a statement from M.H.’s sister indicating the Plaintiffs were often verbally abusive to family members and went for extended periods of time without seeing members of the family for that reason. The trial court determined that the grandparents failed to meet the burden of demonstrating that the children would suffer harm without the visitation and denied the grandparents relief, specifically because the grandparents did not indicate that they lived with the children. Plaintiffs appealed. The appellate division determined that Plaintiffs failed to establish “concrete harm” as set forth in Daniels v. Daniels, 381 N.J. Super. 286, 294 (App. Div. 2005). Further, pursuant to Morairty v. Bradt, 177 N.J. 84, 103 (2003), there is a fundamental right to parental autonomy in decisions affecting the “care, custody and control” of one’s own children which right shall yield only to a compelling state interest. Finding that the trial judge correctly decided that the Plaintiffs did not meet the burden of demonstrating irreparable harm, the appellate division affirmed the decision of the court below. If you are a grandparent seeking to obtain visitation or a parent fighting to prevent grandparent visitation, you should discuss your case with an experienced family law attorney in order to learn your rights. For more information about custody or grandparent visitation, visit DarlingFirm.com or call 973-584-6200 now to set up a consultation. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Psychological Parent Seeks Rights

In A.O. v. N.D., the court determined whether the plaintiff, designated the "psychological parent" of defendant's biological child was entitled to a plenary hearing with regard to an alleged agreement granting joint custody and ordering the parties to attend co-parenting therapy. The parties and the child lived together until the child was four. Plaintiff sought parenting time, custody and a designation as the child's psychological parent and the parties agreed in some regard. The parties agreed to designate an expert to produce a parenting schedule but there was continued conflict in regard to the parenting issue and plaintiff sought joint legal custody and mandatory co-parenting therapy. Defendant refused to sign a consent order giving effect to plaintiff's wishes. Plaintiff filed an application to enforce the unsigned consent order or for the court to order the same relief plaintiff sought in the consent order and defendant opposed. Defendant also acknowledged making his fiancee', not the plaintiff, the child's emergency contact. The judge denied the plaintiff's motion to enforce an unsigned consent order or grant a plenary hearing in light of the lack of evidence an agreement had been reached. The judge found no change in circumstances on which to grant plaintiff's relied but did order the parties to attend a co-parenting class. Plaintiff appealed, arguing the court erred in failing to order a plenary hearing to determine whether a verbal agreement had been reached. The NJ Appellate Division cited to numerous cases in rendering their judgment that the party seeking to enforce an agreement bears the burden of first showing some evidence of the existence of an agreement. The Appellate Division determined that, as per Harrington v. Harrington, 281 N.J. Super. 39 (1995), the agreement need not be reduced to writing to be enforceable. However, the Appellate Division also cited to the fact that an attorney's negotiations are not binding on a client unless the attorney has specific or apparent authority to enter into the settlement. U.S. Plywood Corp. v. Neidlinger, 41 N.J. 66 (1963). No matter the representations of defendant's counsel during negotiations, defendant's refusal to sign was evidence that an agreement did not exist. A designation as "pyschological parent" does not necessarily afford one the rights of a biological parent. Psychological parent is term used in many matters, from the case at hand to same-sex relationships where the non-biological parent failed to adopt to grandparents rights. If you are seeking, or trying to prevent, a designation of "psychological parent", it is critical that you obtain the advice of counsel. For more information about custody, parenting time, child support or other issues relative to children, visit DarlingFirm.com or call to schedule a consultation. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.