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Reyes v. Reyes

Decided: April 25, 1967.

ELENA REYES, A/K/A ELENA RANKIN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAIME REYES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Kilkenny and Collester. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, S.j.a.d.

Goldmann

Defendant appeals from a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court order which directed him to pay $36 a week for the support of his three minor children, born of plaintiff out of wedlock and whose paternity he admits; placed him on probation for five years and ordered that within three days he leave the home he shares with plaintiff, the three children and plaintiff's child by an existent marriage. The notice of appeal states that defendant appeals from the whole of the final order "except that portion which may adjudge him the father of the three children named in the complaint."

Plaintiff has written the court stating that:

"Since I never had any grievance against Jaime Reyes and never charged him with any failure of duty toward his children, and signed the complaint in this matter only because of the direction of the Essex County Welfare Board to do so, I do not intend to file any brief or oppose his appeal in any way. Rather, I join in the application for relief made by him in his appeal."

The welfare board has at our request filed a brief amicus curiae.

We deal here with a situation which, at least in its procedural aspects, is most unusual. We were informed at oral argument that plaintiff's lawful husband was deported to Cuba 11 or 12 years ago, still lives there and, like plaintiff, would welcome a divorce. He had one child by plaintiff, who resides with her and apparently is supported by the county welfare board. There can be no question that the proceedings below were initiated at the instance of the welfare board, but for just what reason is not clear. It may be that plaintiff sought more support for her legitimate child, or that the agency's caseworker was checking into the situation with respect to that child. However that may be, the caseworker discovered that the parties were living together in the same house with the four children and induced plaintiff to file a complaint on April 2, 1966. Defendant was summoned to appear before the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on May 17 following to answer the complaint.

The complaint is captioned "Complaint (Support) (Consent Paternity)," the last parenthetical descriptive being typed in. The opening paragraph alleges that plaintiff is seeking support and maintenance from defendant for the three children, then six months, three years and ten years old. The complaint goes on to state that the parties reside in the same household, that defendant is not plaintiff's lawful husband and is the father of the children, and that he is employed. The following then appears:

"(x) He is the father of, and failed and neglected to support and maintain or adequately to support and maintain said illegitimate child or children. (N.J.S. 2A-4-18c; R.S. 9:16-2 et seq.)

Defendant fully supports."

The complaint concludes with a demand for an order compelling defendant adequately to support and maintain the children.

Neither party was represented by counsel at the hearing, although the summons served on defendant stated he had that right. We have no doubt that the very limited means, education and experience of the parties resulted in their coming into court without representation. The welfare board appeared by counsel. Neither party requested that the testimony be taken stenographically pursuant to R.R. 6:2-10. Accordingly, the matter is before us on a statement of proceedings prepared by the trial judge. From it we learn that there was introduced in evidence by the welfare board a statement signed by defendant on March 21, 1966 admitting he was the father of the three children in question. Both plaintiff and defendant acknowledged that the children were the result of ...


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