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Ascolese v. Ascolese

July 20, 2007


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FM-14-556-00.

Per curiam.


Submitted June 19, 2007

Before Judges Stern and Coburn.

Defendant, Jacqueline Ascolese, appeals from a post-judgment order of the Family Part entered on October 13, 2006, which awarded her $188 a week in child support to be paid by plaintiff, her former husband for support of their two children.*fn1

The contested order provided that "[p]laintiff shall pay $188.00 per week representing child support as calculated based upon the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines attached hereto through the Bergen County Probation Services Division." The order attached a "Child Support Guidelines - Shared Parenting Worksheet."

Defendant argues that the trial court committed reversible error by using a shared parenting worksheet, instead of a sole parenting worksheet, in calculating child support "because of an incorrect assumption of the number of plaintiff's overnight visits." Defendant further argues that the amount of child support should have been increased to reflect "an age adjustment per paragraph 17 per the child support guidelines." We remand for additional findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Pursuant to an order of August 6, 2001, the parties had joint custody of their two children until August 2006. No child support was embodied therein or in any order known to us prior to the year 2006.*fn2 By orders entered on August 17 and August 31, 2006, a parenting time schedule was created for the school year commencing in the fall of 2006.*fn3 As a result, plaintiff moved to discontinue his responsibility to make alimony payments, while defendant cross moved to "fix[] an award of child support in the event of a modification or termination of alimony based on the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines."

After argument on October 6, 2006, the trial court discontinued alimony, but ordered plaintiff to pay $235 a month in child support. The order was premised on the attached "Child Support Guidelines - Sole Parenting Worksheet."

Immediately thereafter plaintiff wrote to the motion judge suggesting that he mistakenly used a "Sole Parenting Worksheet," instead of a "Shared Parenting Worksheet." Defendant responded, and contended that the trial judge properly used the "Sole Parenting Worksheet." As already noted, by order dated October 13, 2006, the trial judge amended paragraph 3 of the order of October 6, and reduced the child support from $235 a week to $188 per week. The October 13 order was accompanied by a letter in which the trial judge stated:

On October 6, 2006, the Court entered an order requiring plaintiff to pay $235.00 per week representing child support in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines. In its oral decision placed on the record, the Court indicated that it intended to use the shared parenting worksheet. The Guidelines attached to that order, however, inadvertently employed the sole parenting worksheet. The Court, therefore, now enters this corrective order reducing the child support obligation from $235.00 per week to $188.00 per week in accordance with the shared parenting worksheet attached.

In reaching the decision that the shared parenting worksheet is appropriate, the Court has relied upon its knowledge of the history of this case. Both homes provide separate residences and until the recent change, the children spent half their time roughly in each home. A specific parenting plan has been ordered by the Court. The Court has reviewed Appendix IXA, page 229, et seq. Shared Parenting Arrangements, in reaching this decision.*fn4

At the time of the proceedings in the fall of 2006, the children were over twelve and-one-half and fourteen and-one-half years of age.

Defendant contends that "[p]laintiff does not meet [the] criteria for use of a shared parenting worksheet" under the Child Support Guidelines by virtue of the time spent with him. She also argues that, pursuant to paragraph 17 of the Child Support Guidelines, Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-A to R. 4. 5:6A at 2234 (2007), "[t]he age adjustment is appropriate where there are initial awards for children in their teens . . . to compensate the higher than average expenses for older children." Plaintiff insists that this was "not an initial child support award" as the trial judge "considered both alimony and child support" in entering the original order of August 6, 2001. Plaintiff further notes that there was a calculation of child support in 2001, but because it was only $17.00 a week, the judge determined not to enforce it or place it in an order. Plaintiff also contends that ...

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