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Culp v. Culp

Decided: June 11, 1990.

SHARON M. CULP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN F. CULP, III, DEFENDANT



Bassler, J.s.c.

Bassler

In this matrimonial action, the receiver appointed by this court seeks, among other things, to vacate a writ of execution and levy issued against the receiver's bank account on behalf of a judgment creditor of defendant husband. The application is but a small skirmish in a larger matrimonial war*fn1 being waged in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland by a pro-se defendant from an unidentified redoubt in the Austrian Tyrol. To put the matter in its proper perspective a short survey of the legal landscape is called for.

The Matrimonial Action.

Plaintiff Sharon M. Culp and defendant John F. Culp, III were married on July 3, 1971. Three children were born of the marriage; a child of plaintiff by a previous marriage was also adopted by defendant. All four children are currently unemancipated.

In the fall of 1987, after a marriage of 16 years duration, plaintiff filed a complaint for divorce. Defendant was then living in New Jersey and was represented by local counsel. The early engagement of the litigants saw the usual salvo of orders for support and applications for enforcement. Defendant was ordered to pay plaintiff unallocated support of $1,000 a week, the costs of the children's education at private schools and "roof" expenses.

From the inception of the law suit defendant frustrated every effort to obtain legitimate discovery of his extensive holdings. Interrogatories were served but went unanswered, orders to produce discovery were entered but were ignored.

Early in 1988, defendant retreated across the Delaware to the apparent safety of another jurisdiction -- Pennsylvania. In a

letter to plaintiff he wrote: "But I'm in Pa. now and you are on your own in N.J.!! Good luck!"

In the spring of 1988, plaintiff changed counsel. A shortlived truce followed. The parties through counsel signed a consent order on May 11 agreeing to the disposition of proceeds from defendant's sale of a cemetery in Pennsylvania. The consent order also provided that defendant's "support obligations . . . shall continue in accordance with prior Court Orders." In the summer, defendant retained the firm of Pitney, Hardin, Kipp & Szuch, but by the winter that firm sought to be relieved of counsel, because defendant's failure to cooperate in the discovery process prevented counsel from effectively representing defendant and also from fulfilling their responsibilities as officers of the court. They were permitted to withdraw.

In December 1988, the court granted plaintiff's motion to bifurcate the matrimonial action to allow an immediate hearing on the cause of action for divorce while reserving on the issues of support and equitable distribution.*fn2 In light of defendant's age and health, bifurcation was permitted to avoid the problems stemming from defendant's untimely death which would deprive the surviving spouse of equitable distribution under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 while excluding her, because of the moribund marriage, from an elective share under N.J.S.A. 3B:8-1.*fn3 See Carr v. Carr, 229 N.J. Super. 370, 551 A.2d 989 (App.Div.1988), certif. granted 114 N.J. 520, 555 A.2d 632 (1989). Consequently

on Feb. 16, 1989 after taking plaintiff's testimony (defendant did not appear), a ...


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