On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County.
Petrella and Landau. The opinion of the court was delivered by Landau, J.A.D.
This is an appeal by defendant Terese L. Kreuzer (Terese) from the denial of her post-judgment motion in the Chancery Division, Family Part for an order enforcing her litigant's rights to payment and interest assertedly due from plaintiff-respondent Lloyd Kreuzer (Lloyd) under a 1971 divorce judgment entered in Somerset County.
Lloyd instituted the divorce action as a New Jersey resident and made payments for several years under the judgment, in an aggregate amount of approximately $10,000. The judgment provided for 121 monthly payments of $350, for a total of $42,350, unallocated as to support and alimony. An issue of paternity of their minor child was reserved in the original judgment, but continued as an unresolved problem through the years. Terese asserts that Lloyd's persistent threat to raise a paternity issue defense inhibited her earlier enforcement efforts. She alleges that a sum of $64,239, inclusive of interest, is now due.
Lloyd has resided in California since 1974. Terese sought to enforce the New Jersey judgment in New York, but failed as the court found there was no personal jurisdiction over Lloyd. There is no indication that she ever sought to utilize the provisions of the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (1968), which has been adopted by California and New Jersey, or the original Uniform Act which is in effect in New York.*fn1
We mention the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, not to urge that it should be used or must be used, as the procedure Terese followed is not against our public policy (Zelek v. Brosseau, 47 N.J. Super. 521, 533 (App.Div.1957), aff'd 26 N.J. 501 (1958)), but to note the existence of an alternate remedy for enforcement of the 1971 judgment, available both in New York and New Jersey, which requires neither travel to California by the obligee nor in personam jurisdiction here.
The present motion for an enforcement order was filed in Somerset County in May 1987, and was countered by cross-motions to dismiss for lack of in personam jurisdiction and on grounds of forum non conveniens.
The trial judge ruled that there was personal jurisdiction over Lloyd by reason of the continuous nature of the matrimonial action. Zelek, 47 N.J. Super. at 527. However, he concluded that:
Generally, a determination of whether to invoke the doctrine of forum non conveniens is made by weighing and balancing the conveniences and detriments to the litigants. But we must also address concerns of the unnecessary use of judicial time and resources and avoid unproductive litigation. Since ultimate relief cannot be obtained in New Jersey and a dismissal of this motion will not adversely affect the legal rights of either party, pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens the husband's application to dismiss the Motion to Enforce Litigant's Rights is granted.
The trial judge recognized that under the doctrine of forum non conveniens a court may decline jurisdiction for sufficient reason. Vargas v. A.H. Bull Steamship Co., 25 N.J. 293, 295 (1957), cert. den. 355 U.S. 958, 78 S. Ct. 545, 2 L. Ed. 2d 534 (1958); Loonan v. Marino, 179 N.J. Super. 164, 167 (Ch.Div.1981). He reasoned that "the only way for the wife to obtain enforcement of a judgment entered by a New Jersey court is to go to California. This being so, why not require her to go to California in the first instance and accomplish in one proceeding what will now require two?" He noted that "[r]ealistically, all she really seeks is a mathematical computation of the amount due." Accordingly, as the judgment of divorce already provided
for the money payments, he concluded that nothing useful could be ...