On appeal from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Bergen County.
For affirmance -- Justices Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Jacobs and Brennan. For dismissal -- Justice Heher. The opinion of the court was delivered by Oliphant, J.
[21 NJ Page 602] This is an appeal from an order and judgment of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Bergen County requiring the defendant-appellant to pay $32 per week for the support and maintenance of four minor children, said payments to be made to the Probation Office of Bergen County and then to be sent to the Juvenile Court in the County of Jefferson, Kentucky. The order is conditioned on the plaintiff-respondent permitting the defendant-appellant reasonable visitation rights with the four children at their place of residence in Kentucky, permitting the defendant-appellant to have the children with him at least one month during the summer of each year to be selected
by him, and requiring the appellant to pay the traveling expenses of the children from Kentucky to the appellant's home in this State and their return.
We certified the cause here on our own motion. R.R. 1:10-1(a).
In 1955 the wife filed a verified complaint under the Uniform Reciprocal Support Act in Kentucky after taking a pauper's oath. The Kentucky statute, P.L. 1954, c. 190, KRS 407.010-407.360, being the Uniform Act, contains relevant and reasonably similar provisions to our Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, N.J.S. 2 A:4-30.1 et seq., L. 1952, c. 197, as amended by L. 1953, c. 245.
The complaint was filed in the Juvenile Court of Jefferson County, Kentucky, as the initiating state, and was certified and transmitted to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Bergen County, the court with jurisdiction in New Jersey as the responding state, pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S. 2 A:4-30.11, 12. The defendant was and is a resident of Bergen County in this State. The County Adjuster of Bergen County appeared below and here. N.J.S. 2 A:4-30.12.
This statute contains a new approach in interstate cooperation to enforce the support of dependents. It expressly provides that "the remedies herein provided are in addition to and not in substitution of any other remedies," N.J.S. 2 A:4-30.3. We are in accord with the expression of the Appellate Division "every endeavor should be made by the courts to render this statute operable, for the objectives of the legislation are very worthy." Pfueller v. Pfueller, 37 N.J. Super. 106 (App. Div. 1955). However, we made our position clear in State v. Greenberg, 16 N.J. 568, 573 (1954), that we were not willing to lend ourselves to the views expressed by others, including the National Conference of Commissioners, but would confine our interpretation of the statute only to such questions as they are properly presented in each case.
The enforcement of an act of such broad sweep and unique procedural purposes will present some constitutional, jurisdictional
and procedural questions with respect to specific provisions of the act and their application to individual family situations consistent with the public policy of this state in accordance with the general principles of comity. Cf. Fantony v. Fantony, 21 N.J. 525 (1956). So far there is very little decisional law, but many theoretical questions and objections have already been explored. Commonwealth ex rel. Shaffer v. Shaffer, 175 Pa. Super. 100, 103 A. 2 d 430, 42 A.L.R. 2 d 768; 37 A.B.A. Journal, pp. 93, 97; 17 Missouri L. Review 1; 31 Oregon L. Rev. 97, 98 (1952); U.L.A. 9 A, and notes of the Uniform Commissioners therein. There is a careful review of these problems in 17 Pittsburgh L. Rev. 261 (1956).
The presumption is that a statute is constitutional, and it is a settled rule that a statute will not be declared inoperative and unenforceable unless it is plainly in contravention of a constitutional mandate or prohibition. It is the duty of the courts to so construe a statute as to render it constitutional if it is reasonably susceptible of such interpretation, and to see that its enforcement is confined within constitutional limitations. St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church of Perth Amboy v. Gengor, 121 N.J. Eq. 349 (E. & A. 1937); Lynch v. Borough of Edgewater, 8 N.J. 279 (1951); Woodhouse v. Woodhouse, 17 N.J. 409, 416 (1955).
It is universally recognized that the family is the basic unit of the complex society in which we live and that its stability is indispensable to the public welfare and health, morals and upbringing of children is its core and essence. A child has the right to be equipped for its future mature life, and this equipment is nothing more than education in its generic and inclusive sense, implying physical, intellectual and moral development. This has been recognized in all civilizations, with few exceptions since Crito said to Socrates, "No man should bring children into this world who is unwilling to ...