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Pfueller v. Pfueller

Decided: September 30, 1955.

KERLINE PFUELLER, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ADOLPH PFUELLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Clapp, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Clapp, S.j.a.d.

Clapp

We are concerned in this case with the operation of the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, N.J.S.A. 2 A:4-30.1 et seq. , adopted now in many jurisdictions.

The plaintiff, Kerline Pfueller, instituted these proceedings in the Municipal Court of Philadelphia, Domestic Relations Division, to secure support from the defendant, Adolph Pfueller, her husband. There were no children of the marriage. A statement of information signed by her and a verified complaint were apparently transmitted by the Municipal

Court to a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in this State. The latter court ordered defendant to pay a stated sum for plaintiff's support. He appeals.

The New Jersey court held that its only responsibility was to ascertain whether plaintiff was the wife of the defendant; that the Philadelphia court had "determined the duty of this man to pay before they sent the complaint to us."

This is an obvious misconception. The statute, N.J.S.A. 2 A:4-30.11, in this respect identical with the uniform act, sec. 13, places upon the court in the initiating state the duty merely of finding whether the complaint

"sets forth facts from which it may be determined that the defendant owes a duty of support." (Italics inserted.)

Indeed the finding of the Philadelphia court in this case is stated in quite similar terms.

Professor Brockelbank, chairman of the committee which prepared the uniform act for the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, has said of the finding of a court in an initiating state:

"This is not a finding that the defendant owes the duty. The court of the initiating state at that stage could not so find, for the defendant is not before the court." Brockelbank, "Is the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act Constitutional?" 17 Mo. L. Rev. 1, 12 (1952).

In effect it amounts merely to a finding that the allegations of the complaint warrant further proceedings; it is in no way evidentiary as to defendant's liability.

Under the statute it becomes the obligation, not of the initiating court, but of the court in the responding state, to determine whether or not the defendant is under a duty to support the plaintiff. N.J.S.A. 2 A:4-30.13. This determination may be made by the latter court only upon the basis of evidence adduced before the court and of depositions taken on ...


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