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Campbell v. Campbell

March 15, 2007


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, FD-03-1612-04-X.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. A. RODRÍGUEZ, P.J.A.D.



Submitted January 31, 2007

Before Judges Stern, A. A. Rodríguez and Collester.

Defendant, Jules Campbell (ex-husband), appeals from a post-divorce judgment order denying his motion to vacate an Australian child support order registered by plaintiff, Shirley Campbell (ex-wife), in New Jersey pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA*fn1 ), N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.65 to -30.123 and for abatement of the arrears. The judge denied exhusband's motion to vacate because the issues were raised and dismissed by the court at the registration hearing. The judge dismissed the motion, denied ex-husband's application for counsel fees as moot and ordered therein that ex-husband make an immediate payment of $10,000 of the arrearages. We affirm.

The parties were married in Australia. One child was born of the marriage. The parties were divorced on September 15, 1989 in the Australian Family Court. A consent agreement was entered on January 2, 1990 in the Australian Family Court, providing for the payment of the Australian equivalent of $150.00 per month.

On February 25, 1997, a subsequent order was entered by the Family Court of Australia and registered with the Australian Child Support Agency. This order modified ex-husband's child support obligation to $120 per week in Australian currency and provided an abatement provision that "said maintenance [would] be suspended during any periods that [ex-husband] is able to provide documentary evidence that he is registered with the CES and gainfully seeking employment."

Ex-wife initially petitioned the New Jersey courts to enforce the Australian child support order at issue on March 12, 2004. Although this order was initially registered, due to some procedural problems the order was vacated on June 24, 2004. Finally, in August 2004, following a registration hearing, the order was properly registered and confirmed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.110(c). At this registration hearing, ex-husband appeared pro se and argued against registration of the order and for abatement of the arrears. No appeal was made from this order.

On January 26, 2006, ex-husband moved to vacate. The motion was denied. At the time of the subject order, exhusband's arrears exceeded $31,000. From August 14, 2006 through August 23, 2006, ex-husband was incarcerated for failure to pay child support.

On appeal, ex-husband contends that the registered Australian child support order should be vacated pursuant to the provisions of the UIFSA for the following reasons: (1) the judge at the August 31, 2004 registration hearing failed to apply Australian law in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.107; (2) the registration of the Australian order is invalid because the judge modified the order at the registration hearing contrary to UIFSA; (3) ex-husband was prejudiced by the registration judge's determination not to apply the abatement provision; (4) the abatement provision could only be ignored by the registering state if it was repugnant to the policy of New Jersey and the United States; (5) the judge failed to provide proper notice to ex-husband prior to entering an order confirming the registration as required pursuant to UIFSA; and (6) the Australian Child Support Agency failed to file the orders properly pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.105. We disagree.

New Jersey adopted the 1996 version of UIFSA, codified at N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.65 to -30.123. The United States Congress mandated that every state must adopt UIFSA and any amendments thereto. See 42 U.S.C. 666(f). UIFSA contemplates interstate cooperation to effect an expeditious collection of child support across state borders. It provides "unity and structure in each state's approach to the modification and enforcement of child support orders." See Yousseffi v. Yousseffi, 328 N.J. Super. 12, 20 (App. Div. 2000) (citing 42 U.S.C. 666(f)).

N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.103 provides the procedure for registration of orders from other states. "A party seeking to enforce a support order issued by a tribunal of another state may send the documents required for registering the order to a support enforcement agency of this State." Ibid.

According to N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.106(a), a support order "is registered when the order is filed in the registering tribunal of this State." Ibid. (emphasis added). N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.105 requires certain documents and information be obtained before registration can be proper. On receipt of these documents, "the registering tribunal shall cause the order to be filed as a foreign ...

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