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Bing v. Bing

Decided: January 13, 1965.

ESTELLA BING, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM BING, DEFENDANT



Flanagan, J.J.D.R.C.

Flanagan

[86 NJSuper Page 247] Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the ground that this court lacks jurisdiction to hear it. The action was brought under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, N.J.S. 2A:4-30.1 et seq. Plaintiff, a New York resident, sues defendant, a Bergen County resident, for marital support for herself. Her complaint was filed in the Family Court of New York, Kings County, in May 1964, which court then sent it here for hearing and determination, pursuant to said act. Defendant argues that the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court lacks jurisdiction to hear any marital support case where the parties are no longer husband and wife, including one such as this brought under the reciprocal act.

In support of his motion defendant introduced a certified copy of a South Carolina judgment of divorce a vinculo matrimonii entered in his favor in the Aiken County Court of Common Pleas on December 11, 1954. It recites that jurisdiction over defendant wife (who is plaintiff herein) was obtained by publication and mailing, and that she neither answered nor appeared. Defendant argues that jurisdiction over support cases between divorced couples is entrusted by N.J.S. 2A:34-8 and 2A:34-23 to the Superior Court exclusively, and that this court is therefore necessarily devoid of such jurisdiction. N.J.S. 2A:34-8 provides that

"The superior court shall have jurisdiction of all causes of divorce or nullity and of alimony and maintenance by this chapter directed and allowed. * * *"

N.J.S. 2A:34-23 provides that

"* * * after judgment of divorce * * * whether obtained in this state or elsewhere, the court may make such order as to the alimony or maintenance of the wife * * * as the circumstances of the parties * * * shall render fit, reasonable and just * * *."

The answer to defendant's contention is found in the grant to this court of exclusive jurisdiction over all actions arising under the reciprocal act, contained in N.J.S. 2A:4-30.9. Said section reads in part as follows:

"* * * Jurisdiction of all proceedings hereunder shall be vested in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of any county of this State."

The use of the uncompromising word "all" excludes the notion that the Legislature intended any court other than this one to hear cases arising under the reciprocal act.

N.J.S. 2A:34-8 and 2A:34-23 were enacted in substantially their present form in 1907 (L. 1907, c. 216, § 4, p. 476, and § 25, p. 481, respectively). The Reciprocal Enforcement of Family Support Act, 2A:4-30.1 et seq., was not enacted until 1952 (L. 1952, c. 197). The two statutory schemes operate independently of each other without friction or overlap, with

the Superior Court exercising jurisdiction over local support actions brought by former wives against their former husbands, and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court exercising an identical, coextensive jurisdiction over interstate support suits brought under the reciprocal act by one former spouse against the other. The Legislature's selection of this court to hear such interstate suits was an eminently appropriate and sensible one, because this court is well adapted by reason of its existing support jurisdiction and the informal character of its practice to handle them with the expedition and procedural simplicity that is instinctive in the reciprocal act. The summary hearing and determination enjoined upon this court by N.J.S. 2A:4-18 is entirely compatible with the informal spirit that infuses the reciprocal act. For example, nowhere within it is there mention of any pleading other than a complaint. Brockelbank, in his Interstate Enforcement of Family Support (1960), a work that deals exclusively with the reciprocal act, states at page 55:

"* * * The tendency in modern practice is to consider the function of pleading as more to give notice than to determine issues. Accordingly, issues may be settled orally at the trial or in pre-trial conferences, and the ...


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