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Marshak v. Weser

February 8, 2007

JAN MARSHAK, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
LAWRENCE WESER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, FM-13-134-02B.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: S.L. Reisner, J.A.D

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued January 16, 2007

Before Judges Lintner, S.L. Reisner and Seltzer.*fn1

Defendant, Lawrence Weser, appeals from a trial court order requiring him to pay college expenses for his eighteen-year old son, even though Pennsylvania, the State in which the original child support order was entered in connection with the parties' divorce, does not require a parent to pay college expenses for a child who has reached the age of majority. We reverse.

I.

These are the most pertinent facts. Defendant and plaintiff, Jan Marshak, were married in 1981 and had two children. The parties were divorced on June 16, 1999, in Pennsylvania. The first child support order was entered in Pennsylvania in 1999. Thereafter, both parties and the children moved to New Jersey. A second child support order, reducing the amount of support required of defendant, was entered in Pennsylvania in 2000. On June 12, 2002, the parties signed a consent order entered in New Jersey, that recalculated support for the younger child in anticipation of the older child's emancipation. That consent order stated in pertinent part that "[n]othing herein shall be construed to [affect] the nature, term, duration or extent of child support under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania." On June 21, 2002, a Pennsylvania court issued an order emancipating the older child, who had turned eighteen.

As soon as the younger child turned eighteen and graduated from high school, defendant filed a motion in New Jersey to have him declared emancipated.*fn2 Plaintiff filed a cross-motion seeking to "unemancipate" the older child and to require defendant to contribute to both children's college expenses pursuant to New Jersey law.

In the trial court, defendant contended that under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which New Jersey has adopted, N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.65 to -30.123, Pennsylvania law governs the emancipation issue because the duration of a child support obligation entered in one state cannot be modified by the courts of another state. However, the trial judge agreed with plaintiff that the Supreme Court's decision in Philipp v. Stahl, 172 N.J. 293 (2002), rev'g on dissent, 344 N.J. Super. 262, 274 (App. Div. 2001), indicated that the Court would apply this State's law on payment of college expenses, provided both parties were currently living in New Jersey. He also reasoned that our Legislature had not adopted a 2001 amendment to UIFSA specifically providing that the duration of a child support obligation imposed by the courts of one state may not be extended by the courts of another state. The judge ordered defendant to pay college expenses for the younger son, without holding a plenary hearing or reviewing the twelve factors set forth Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 545 (1982), pertaining to the payment of college expenses for a child over the age of majority.*fn3

II.

Since the trial court decided this case as a matter of law, without a plenary hearing, our review is de novo. Manalapan Realty v. Manalapan Twp. Comm., 140 N.J. 366, 378 (1995). We begin by addressing UIFSA and its relationship to New Jersey law.

UIFSA is a model act adopted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws at the behest of Congress in 1992 and revised in 1996. Kurtis A. Kemper, Annotation, Construction and Application of Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, 90 A.L.R.5th 1, 2 (2006). Congress thereafter mandated that all States enact UIFSA as a condition of receiving certain federal funding:

In order to satisfy section 654(20)(A) of this title, on and after January 1, 1998, each State must have in effect the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, as approved by the American Bar Association on February 9, 1993, and as in effect on August 22, 1996, including any amendments officially adopted as ...


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