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Demaris v. Demaris

November 29, 2007


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket No. FM-03-652-04(X).

Per curiam.


Submitted October 31, 2007

Before Judges Wefing and Lyons.

Plaintiff Lisa M. DeMaris appeals from an order entered on June 30, 2006, requiring plaintiff to pay her ex-husband, defendant Peter G. DeMaris, Sr., $111 per week as her share of her child, Peter G. DeMaris, Jr.'s, weekly support obligation; thirty-five percent of a loan payment owed in connection with Peter Jr.'s attendance at the University of Vermont and thirty-five percent of a loan obtained from Sallie Mae incurred in connection with her son's attendance at Full Sail Real World Education (Full Sail). The following factual and procedural history is relevant to our consideration of the issues advanced on appeal.

Plaintiff and defendant were married on January 10, 1987. They have three children, Peter Jr., now age twenty, M.D., now age seventeen, and N.D., now age sixteen. Plaintiff and defendant, during their marriage, had discussed their children attending college. On June 2, 2004, the parties divorced and plaintiff initially had custody of all three children. Parenting, however, was shared. In October 2004, Peter Jr. moved in with defendant. At that time, he was a senior in high school. He was a B/C student and had achieved a score of 1210 on his college SAT test. In February 2005, custody of Peter Jr. was officially transferred to defendant.

In the winter and spring of 2005, plaintiff arranged one college visit for Peter Jr. and went herself with him to visit the University of Delaware. Defendant sent more than five letters, some certified, during this period to plaintiff regarding their son's college selection options, the choice of the school he was to attend, and certain background information on the finances involved. Because of the animosity evident in the record between the parents, it is clear that most of the discussions were by mail or email, as opposed to face-to-face.

In the spring of 2005, plaintiff was informed that Peter Jr. would be attending the University of Vermont in the fall. In July 2005, defendant demanded that plaintiff contribute thirty-five percent of the college costs for her son in response to her inquiries regarding items needed to be purchased in preparation for her son's attendance at college. At that time, defendant instructed plaintiff that if she were looking for details, she should ask Peter Jr. directly.

In September 2005, Peter Jr. began matriculating at the University of Vermont. Also during that period, plaintiff was laid off from her job at Campbell's Soup Company where she had been making $40,500 per year. In November 2005, Peter Jr. withdrew from the University of Vermont, without the consent or approval of either parent. While at the University of Vermont, he incurred a number of student loans in his own name, and his father had co-signed a loan in the amount of $11,888 to pay for the tuition there.

On December 19, 2005, defendant filed a motion to enforce plaintiff's obligation to contribute to her son's college education. In the application, defendant advised that their son was looking at a school in Florida and would be enrolling in February 2006 at that school. He did not specify the name of the school or the cost. On January 9, 2006, plaintiff filed a cross-motion in opposition to defendant's motion. On February 27, 2006, Peter Jr. began attending Full Sail in Florida. He had an apartment there as the school did not provide housing. Defendant advanced the start-up costs and obtained a loan for the son's educational expenses through Sallie Mae.

Also in February 2006, the individual with whom plaintiff had been living died. His will provided that plaintiff was to receive the home they were living in free and clear. At the time that the home was purchased, it had a value of approximately $330,000.

On March 28 and April 3, 2006, the trial court had a plenary hearing regarding the application to have plaintiff contribute to Peter Jr.'s college costs. On May 1, 2006, the trial court issued a comprehensive letter opinion with its decision; an order was entered on June 30, 2006. A notice of appeal to our court was filed on August 15, 2006.

In March 2007, plaintiff filed a motion to remand the matter to the trial court since Peter Jr. was finishing classes at Full Sail and "did not want to stay in Florida to continue the program he had started," but rather voiced a desire to attend Drexel University. Plaintiff sought to file a motion for emancipation, modification, and reconsideration in the trial court. Our court granted the motion to remand. On remand, plaintiff's motion was heard by a different trial judge and was substantially denied. The trial court denied the motion to terminate child support with respect to Peter Jr., to emancipate Peter Jr., and to recalculate child support for the younger children. Plaintiff's motion was granted in part requiring that defendant provide documentation concerning the terms of the Sallie Mae loan and ...

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