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Marcus v. Martin

March 10, 2008


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, FM-12-51-05M.

Per curiam.


Submitted November 5, 2007

Before Judges A. A. Rodríguez and C. L. Miniman.

Frederick Martin (father), appeals from a January 5, 2007 post-divorce judgment order that, among other things, directed him to comply with two prior orders entered on March 3, 2006, and September 22, 2006. We affirm.

The parties were divorced on May 30, 2001, after ten years of marriage. Judge Melvin Whitken entered a dual judgment that incorporated the parties' Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). Two children were born of the marriage, then aged fourteen and twelve.

Prudence Marcus (mother), moved to enforce various provisions of their PSA relating to visitation, unpaid medical bills and tax returns.*fn1 Father cross-moved in response. Judge Frederic Kessler conducted a plenary hearing on these matters and ordered on February 2, 2005, that: 1) father shall have parenting time every weekend from Saturday 1:00 p.m. to Sunday 7:00 p.m.; 2) the pick-up and drop-off of the children during weekends shall take place at the United Methodist Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey; 3) the children shall not begin any new weekend activities without first attempting to discuss such activity with father; 4) paragraph 22 of the PSA was amended to allow father to claim one child and mother to claim the other as a tax exemption on a yearly basis with mother providing father IRS Form 8332 by February 15 every year for this purpose; 5) father was ordered to pay $135, representing half of the children's Holiday LEAL expenses incurred during Easter break; and 6) mother should submit all medical bills for eye care expenses for both children to father's health insurance carrier, and that father will be financially responsible for half of any unreimbursed charges. Judge Kessler also transferred venue to Middlesex County based upon the parties change in residence.

Thereafter, father filed a motion for enforcement of litigant's rights pursuant to the February 2, 2005 order. Mother cross-moved.*fn2 By order dated March 3, 2006, Judge Joseph Rea held that: 1) mother shall ensure that the children are at the pick-up location every weekend as required for father's weekly parenting time; 2) in accordance with the parties PSA, father is required to pay ex-wife $1,490, representing one-half of the summer camp expenses incurred for the children; 3) father is required to provide mother with proof of his life insurance policy; 4) father is required to pay mother $984.50 representing one-half of the unreimbursed medical expenses submitted to father's health insurance carrier as required by the February 2, 2005 order; and 5) denied mother's cross-motion for counsel fees and costs.

On September 22, 2006, mother moved to enforce litigant's rights. Father replied with a cross-motion. Judge Diane Pincus ordered father to comply with the March 3, 2006 order in its entirety and noted that father failed to present any evidence tending to show that the March 3, 2006 order was in error.

Because father failed to comply with the previous orders, on January 5, 2007, Judge Pincus entered the order on appeal, which directed father to pay $2,421 within fourteen days, representing $2,391 he was ordered to pay in orders entered on March 3, 2006, and September 22, 2006, in addition to $30 for mother's filing fees in connection with her motion. Judge Pincus further ordered that if father failed to submit a proof of payment to the court within twenty days, he would be subject to a bench warrant.

On appeal, father contends that, "[b]ecause [mother] did not submit the amount she was ordered [to pay] . . . all rulings . . . by [Judges Kessler, Rea and Pincus] are invalid. . . ." No legal support is given for that proposition. He also contends that he is not obligated to pay a math tutoring bill for his daughter because the tutoring was not successful and he then tutored the child with his "superior math skills." Finally, father argues that the visitation schedule should be adjusted, and that the mother should be required to disclose her 2002-2006 tax returns.

We reject these arguments. First, we note that the only matter before us is the January 5, 2007 order. The prior orders were not appealed. Therefore, we cannot consider issues that were not timely challenged on appeal. R. 2:4-1(a) (Appeals from a final judgment or post-judgment order shall be taken "within 45 days of their entry.") The January 5, 2007 order merely enforces obligations set by the prior orders. Father cannot collaterally attack the merit of the prior orders by appealing an enforcement order.

Second, we have carefully examined the contentions raised by father against the record. We are mindful that, "[b]ecause of the family courts' special jurisdiction and expertise in family matters, appellate courts should accord deference to family court factfinding." Cesare v. ...

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