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J.M.W. v. M.D. and F.B.

Decided: June 11, 1987.

J.M.W., PLAINTIFF,
v.
M.D. AND F.B., DEFENDANTS



Natal, P.J.F.P.

Natal

This matter came before the court upon a petition filed by the Plaintiff, J.M.W., for an order permitting disbursement of the sum of $35,000 currently held in the trust account of her attorney. This sum represents the initial installment of a total of $55,000 to be paid by the Defendant, M.D., in consideration of J.M.W.'s stipulation to dismiss with prejudice the paternity and support complaint filed against him. The funds were deposited in the trust account of Plaintiff's attorney pursuant to an order approving the settlement of this matter pending the decision on Plaintiff's petition.

The Plaintiff, J.M.W., petitions the court for the following relief:

1. Court approval of payment of attorney's fees incurred by the Plaintiff, natural guardian, on behalf of the minor, out of a judgment recovered on the minor's behalf.

2. Waiver of the provisions of R. 4:48A and N.J.S.A. 3B:15-16 and 17 requiring the proceeds of any minor's judgment in excess of $5,000 to be deposited with the Camden County Surrogate's Office for investment.

3. Waiver of the statutory requirement of N.J.S.A. 3B:15-16 that the guardian post a surety bond with the Camden County Surrogate's Office in the event that the court permits her to privately invest the proceeds of the judgment obtained on behalf of her daughter.

4. Court approval of the plaintiff's proposed plan to invest the net proceeds of the minor's judgment in variable life insurance with Prudential Insurance Company.

5. Court approval of a $400 per month withdrawal from the principal and earnings to assist with the support of B.A.W.

By way of background, the Plaintiff J.M.W. is the mother of the minor B.A.W., who was born on May 31, 1974. J.M.W. filed a complaint on January 24, 1986, alleging that the Defendant M.D. is the father of B.A.W. and asking the court to enter an

order establishing paternity and for support pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:16-1 et seq. M.D. denied paternity and requested a jury trial on this issue pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:17-49(b) and R. 5:14-1. Prior to B.A.W.'s birth, J.M.W. was married to the co-defendant, F.B. They were divorced in February 1974. On the day of trial, the parties appeared before the court and advised that a settlement had been reached. In order to protect the best interests of B.A.W., the court appointed James H. Waller, Esq. as law guardian pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:17-47. Subsequently, the parties spread the terms of the settlement on the record.

By order of February 20, 1987, the court retained jurisdiction over the disbursement of the settlement proceeds in this matter. Jurisdiction over this matter is also derived from the doctrine of parens patriae under which it has long been settled that it is the inherent right of a court of equity to intervene for the protection of an infant.

J.M.W. seeks the court's permission to disburse the sum of $35,000 currently in her attorney's trust account in the following manner:

A. $5,000 to be paid to her attorney in full satisfaction of his fee for legal services rendered in this matter;

B. $28,000 to be invested in variable life insurance with the Prudential Insurance Company; and

C. $2,000 to be withheld in lieu of dividends or withdrawals for the first year of the investment.

A petition for review filed by the Surrogate of Burlington County in the Matter of Conda, 104 N.J. 163 (1986) raised certain perceived problems in the handling of minors' funds. In that opinion, the Supreme Court referred these matters to the Chief Justice and the Administrative Director of the Court for evaluation and guidelines. This court is unaware of the publication of the same and ...


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