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Black v. Walker

November 25, 1996

ROSE BLACK, *FN1 PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSEPH WALKER AND JOAN WALKER, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH WALKER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County.

Before Judges King, Keefe and Loftus. The opinion of the court was delivered by King, P.j.a.d.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King

The opinion of the court was delivered by

KING, P.J.A.D.

The trial Judge applied New Jersey law in deciding that a New York father had a duty to pay college education support for his child who lived her entire life in New Jersey with her mother. On this appeal the estate of Joseph Walker, through his executrix, Joan Walker, raises seven claims of error to the orders entered in the Family Part relating to the duty of educational support to Hazel Craig, his daughter. These points are:

POINT I - NEW YORK LAW SHOULD HAVE BEEN APPLIED TO DETERMINE THE EXTENT OF DEFENDANT'S SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS.

POINT II - THE ESTATE'S SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS DID NOT SURVIVE THE DEATH OF JOSEPH WALKER.

POINT III - NEITHER WALKER NOR HIS ESTATE ARE OBLIGATED TO PAY HAZEL'S COLLEGE EXPENSES.

POINT IV - PLAINTIFF FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE THAT HAZEL'S ACCEPTANCE TO THE SYRACUSE COLLEGE WAS REASONABLE BASED UPON THE NEWBURGH STANDARDS; THE OBLIGATION OF JOSEPH WALKER OR HIS ESTATE TO CONTRIBUTE TO HAZEL'S COLLEGE EDUCATION SHOULD HAVE BEEN LIMITED TO THE TUITION SHE WOULD HAVE HAD TO PAY AT A NEW JERSEY STATE COLLEGE.

POINT V - A CHILD IS ONLY ENTITLED TO THE REASONABLE COSTS OF A COLLEGE EDUCATION.

POINT VI - THE FAMILY COURT WAS NOT BOUND BY HAZEL'S OR HER PARENT'S CHOICE OF COLLEGES.

POINT VII - THE AWARD OF ATTORNEY'S FEES WAS IMPROPER.

We affirm the decision. In ruling on the father's duty to provide for his daughter's college education, the Judge correctly applied New Jersey law. Except for a few weeks, the child lived her entire life in New Jersey. This State's interest was sufficiently dominant in the circumstances to warrant the application of New Jersey law.

I.

In 1975 plaintiff Rose Black (Black) and the now-deceased Dr. Joseph Walker (Walker), were both employed at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan when they met. Walker was a fellow (an M.D. who had finished residency and was still in advanced training) and Black was a senior nurse. On January 9, 1976 a child named Hazel Craig (Hazel) was born to Black in Manhattan. At that time, Black was a resident of Manhattan. She moved to New Jersey when Hazel was one or two months of age. Walker was then married to a woman other than Black. Although Walker was not present when Hazel was born, he and Black continued to see each other until Hazel was 12 months of age (Walker's account) or 18 months of age (Blacks' account). Walker and Black apparently lived together for an unspecified but brief period in Carteret, Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Black and Hazel remained New Jersey residents from the time Hazel was an infant. Walker was always employed in New York and was always a resident of New York. As the Family Part Judge found, Black and Walker "mutually ignored" the issue of visitation: Black did not offer to arrange for Walker to see Hazel, and Walker did not ask her to make such arrangements.

In 1977 Black and Walker executed an agreement with respect to Hazel's support and maintenance. The agreement was drafted and signed in New York State with the assistance of counsel, who Black retained at the recommendation of Walker. Walker paid for the attorney; Black could not afford to contribute. The 1977 agreement provided:

a. Black was to have sole custody and control over Hazel;

b. Walker was to pay $300 per month, amount to be renegotiated ...


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