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Newman v. Newman

October 31, 2007

SALLY ANN NEWMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT/CROSS-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIAM GUY NEWMAN, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT/ CROSS-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division-Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-1187-94.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted:*fn1 October 3, 2007

Before Judges Cuff and Lisa.

Plaintiff Sally Ann Newman and defendant William Guy Newman divorced in January 1997. Both parties appeal from various provisions of a March 20, 2006 order entered in response to cross-motions for post-judgment relief. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand for further proceedings.

A judgment of divorce (JOD) was entered on January 30, 1997. A supplemental judgment of divorce (SJOD) was entered on February 28, 1997, several provisions of which are the basis for the motions filed by each party. According to the SJOD, plaintiff has legal and physical custody of their child. The SJOD provided that defendant would receive joint legal custody when he completed six months of individual therapy and weekly co-parenting treatment interventions with a designated therapist. Defendant was also obliged to pay $78 basic child support weekly, as well as $40 weekly for work-related child care expenses and $8 weekly for kindergarten expenses. The SJOD also established child support arrearages of $4,500.

The SJOD also required plaintiff to maintain medical coverage for the child and provided that defendant was responsible for forty-six percent of all unreimbursed medical expenses, including dental, prescription drug, orthodontic and counseling expenses.

In January 2006, plaintiff filed a motion to enforce various provisions of the SJOD. She also sought reimbursement for medical and COBRA expenses. Defendant filed a cross-motion seeking joint legal custody of his son, recalculation of child support, an order requiring plaintiff to pay the first $250 of annual unreimbursed medical expenses, termination of his obligation to pay $8 weekly kindergarten and $40 weekly work-related child care expenses, and reimbursement for overpayment of kindergarten and work-related child care expenses.

The certifications in support of and in opposition to the requested relief reveal that plaintiff has had ongoing problems with alcohol abuse. We discern that she was sober for four years but relapsed in September 1999. She received in-patient rehabilitation services in 1999 during which the parties' son resided with defendant. Plaintiff also suffers from bipolar disorder. Defendant asserted, and plaintiff did not deny, that the parties' son resided with defendant from January 2003 to April 2005.

Following oral argument on the cross-motions, the motion judge entered an order on March 20, 2006. Defendant was ordered to pay the $6,621.14 judgment contained in the SJOD within ninety days of the date of the order, but plaintiff's request for interest on the judgment was denied. Plaintiff's application that defendant contribute to the costs of medical insurance was denied, but her request that defendant pay $5,024.95 of unreimbursed medical expenses was granted.

Plaintiff was ordered to reimburse defendant $3,088 representing overpayment of kindergarten expenses that defendant continued to pay from September 1, 1998 through March 17, 2006, and to repay $6,288 representing overpayment of work-related day care expenses.

Defendant's application for joint custody was denied. His application to vacate the $4,500 support arrearage in the SJOD was granted. The order denied both parties' application for counsel fees.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the motion judge erred as a matter of law by failing to award interest on the $6,621.14 judgment and by vacating the $4,500 judgment for support arrears. She also contends that she was entitled to interest on the child support arrears and that the motion judge should not have vacated the kindergarten and work-related child care elements of the child support award. In his cross-appeal, defendant argues that the motion judge improperly denied his request for joint legal custody and expanded parenting time.

We commence our discussion with a reminder of the need for findings of fact and conclusions of law. Following a lengthy oral argument, the motion judge did not deliver an oral opinion. The motion judge did not include an oral opinion or a statement of reasons with the March 20, 2006 order. This court, counsel and the litigants are left without any explanation of the various rulings. We recognize that the motion judge has retired but because this matter must be remanded for further proceedings, we remind the judge who receives this case that the findings of fact and conclusions of law are not merely for the benefit of an appellate tribunal but also for the benefit of the litigants. Curtis V. Finneran, 83 N.J. 563, 569-70 (1980); Shulas v. Estabrook, 385 N.J. Super. 91, 96 ...


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