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December 2014 Archives

Changes May Come to College Tuition Laws for Divorced Parents

A recent trial court decision compelling divorced parents to pay for their daughter's college tuition has caught the attention of lawmakers in the New Jersey. The daughter, 21, decided to attend Temple University after attending community college for a period of time. She currently resides with her paternal grandparents, and, according to the parents, has very little to do with her parents. The parents claim that they had no role in the school selection process and that they cannot afford to pay the $16,000 sum that the trial court ordered them to pay. 

One-Time Use of Marijuana by Parent Is Not Child Abuse

The Appellate Division recently held that a parent's admission to a one-time use of marijuana while her infant child was in her care was not in itself enough to establish that the parent neglected or abused the child. The decision overturned a trial court's determination that the mother neglected and abused her infant when the mother used marijuana while accompanied by her child.  

Custody Determination Overturned Because Trial Court Did Not Interview Child

In every custody dispute, a trial judge must decide whether to interview the parties' child(ren). It is a difficult decision for most judges as many feel that in interviewing the children, they make the children feel like they must choose one parent over another. The courts never want to put that burden on a child, even though the child's preference as to a custody arrangement should be considered according to our statute. In deciding whether to interview a child, a child's age may be another issue as most judge's will not interview a child younger than seven or eight. If a trial court decides not to interview a child, it must explain in its decision/opinion why it did not do so.

Change to Spousal Privilege May Be Coming

Under current evidence rules, no person shall disclose any communication made in confidence between such person and his or her spouse. At present, marital privilege can be overcome only in certain circumstances, such as when either spouse waives it in a criminal action. However, on December 15, 2014, the New Jersey State Assembly passed a bill (by a vote of 73-0) that would create a crime-fraud exception to the marital communications privilege.  

Parental Alienation Syndrome Not Recognized as Legitimate Theory by New Jersey Courts

While parental alienation claims continue to be a hot topic in custody/parenting time cases all over the state of New Jersey, the Appellate Division and Supreme Court of New Jersey have yet to recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) as valid. In a recent Appellate Division decision, the court noted that a trial judge erred by basing its custody determination in part upon PAS.

Appellate Division Determines that Restraining Order Appropriate in Case Wherein Parties Had Not Dated in Six Years

In a recent appeal of a final restraining order, the Appellate Division determined that a restraining order entered by the trial court under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act was appropriate despite the fact that the parties had not dated or communicated in six years.  

United States Supreme Court To Decide How Threats Made Through Facebook And Other Forms of Social Media Are To Be Handled

On Monday, December 8, 2014, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument relative to threats that a husband made on social media. After separating from his wife in 2010, the husband made threats on Facebook that included violent language aimed at his estranged wife and rap lyric-style musings about shooting up an elementary school. The husband was convicted of violating a federal statute for making threats across state lines due to the threats he made against his wife and for the school rap. The husband has now served three years in prison while waiting for his appeal to reach the Supreme Court.  

Mediation Can Prevent a Blue Christmas

As the holidays approach, we just wanted to remind those of you who may be experiencing parenting time issues to please consider attending mediation instead of making an application to the court. Mediation provides a quicker and cheaper alternative in comparison to submitting an application or motion to the court. A mediation session can be scheduled with a mediator within days of your decision to attend. On the other hand, it will take a judge approximatley one month to decide your motion, even if it relates to the upcoming holidays. While a mediator does charge a fee, both parties may attend without attorneys and craft a resolution that is mutually convenient for them.  

Party Blocked from Vacating Divorce Judgment Against Him Because of Failure to Cooperate

The Appellate Division denied a husband's request to vacate a default judgment that was entered against him by a trial court. The Appellate Division noted that the husband has been guilty of ignorning court orders, had failed to attend a mandatory Early Settlement Panel and a default hearing during which the trial court adopted his wife's uncontested submissions as to equitable distribution, alimony and child support. The husband's flagrant disregard of the judicial process amounted to inexcusable neglect and the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision to deny the husband's motion to vacate the default judgment. 

Retired Judges Can Serve as Parent Coordinators According to Appellate Division

A party appealed a trial court's decision that permitted a retired judge to serve as a parent coordinator in her matter. The party argued that a retired judge should be conflicted out of serving as a parent coordinator because of the restrictions placed upon a retired judge's employment opportunities. Retired judges are prohibited from serving as attorneys in contested matters and accepting "fee generating, court-initiated appointments" except when qualified through training and experience.