August 8, 2008
DEBORAH S. PAGE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
HERBERT F. TILL, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT,
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-830-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 21, 2008
Before Judges Wefing and Parker.
Plaintiff Deborah S. Page appeals from an order entered on March 14, 2007 denying her motion for reconsideration of an order entered on November 29, 2006 dismissing the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. This matter involves the enforcement of a 1991 Florida child support order pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA),*fn1 N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.65 to -30.122. We affirm.
The parties were married on September 1, 1985. One child was born of the marriage on May 16, 1989. The parties subsequently divorced in November 1991 in Florida. Pursuant to the divorce, the Florida court ordered defendant to pay $523 per month in child support. Defendant was also required to pay for the child's health, dental and vision insurance and to maintain a life insurance policy for the child's benefit. The judgment indicated that child support would terminate upon the child's eighteenth birthday or graduation from high school, whichever occurred later.
In 1993, plaintiff filed a motion in Florida to modify child support. Thereafter, plaintiff moved to New Jersey with the child, and defendant moved to Georgia.
In January 1995, well after plaintiff and the child resided in New Jersey, the Florida court modified support and ordered defendant to pay $892 per month. In February 1995, plaintiff filed a complaint in New Jersey seeking to register the Florida judgment of divorce in New Jersey. Her complaint in that action was dismissed in March 2006 for failure to prosecute. In a letter dated April 1, 1996, the court advised plaintiff that New Jersey did not have personal jurisdiction over defendant to modify the Florida orders, but that she could file a URESA*fn2 complaint for support. Plaintiff renewed her application, however, and while defendant was visiting New Jersey, he was personally served on August 6, 1996. Defendant currently lives in Texas.
In September 2006, plaintiff filed a motion in New Jersey to enforce the health insurance provision of the judgment of divorce and to increase support based upon the 1996 complaint that was served on defendant while he was visiting New Jersey.
When plaintiff's motion was not accepted for filing, she re-filed the motion in October 2006, along with a new complaint seeking to register the 1991 Florida judgment and the 1995 post-judgment modification. Defendant cross-moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal and subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court granted defendant's motion. Plaintiff moved for reconsideration and her motion was denied in the March 14, 2007 order now on appeal.
Plaintiff argues that (1) the trial court erred in its interpretation of UIFSA; (2) the trial court erred in failing to consider and apply full faith and credit; and (3) Marshak v. Weser, 390 N.J. Super. 387 (App. Div. 2007), requires reversal of the trial court's decision.
We have carefully considered plaintiff's arguments in light of the applicable law and we are satisfied that they lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). Nevertheless, we add the following comments.
Judge William R. DeLorenzo, Jr. held that, although Florida no longer has exclusive continuing jurisdiction to modify the orders because neither parent nor their son resides in Florida, New Jersey lacks such jurisdiction under the UIFSA. Judge DeLorenzo explained that Section 611 of the UIFSA "provides an 'anti-hometown' rule which requires that the Obligee go to the Obligor's state, for modification." As a result, Judge DeLorenzo correctly concluded, plaintiff must register and seek modification of the order in defendant's home state of Texas.
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.72
a. A tribunal of this State issuing a support order consistent with the law of this State has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over a child support order:
(1) as long as this State remains the residence of the obligor, the individual obligee, or the child for whose benefit the support order is issued; or
(2) until all of the parties who are individuals have filed written consents with the tribunal of this State for a tribunal of another state to modify the order and assume continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.
Fla. Stat. Ann. § 88.2051(1) includes identical language.
Since Florida is no longer the state of residence for plaintiff, defendant, or their son, Florida no longer has exclusive continuing jurisdiction to enforce or modify the 1991 judgment or 1995 modification. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 88.2051(1) and N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.72(a)(1). It does not immediately follow from this, however, that New Jersey has jurisdiction to modify the Florida orders. N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.114(a) provides that a court of this State may modify a registered foreign support order: only if [N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.116] does not apply and after notice and hearing it finds that:
(1) the following requirements are met:
(a) the child, the individual obligee, and the obligor do not reside in the issuing state;
(b) a petitioner who is a nonresident of this State seeks modification; and
(c) the respondent is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal of this State; or
(2) the child or a party who is an individual is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal of this State and all of the individual parties have filed written consents in the issuing tribunal for a tribunal of this State to modify the support order and assume continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the order. [Emphasis added].
N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.116 applies only where all parties reside in this State, and is not, therefore, applicable to the present case because defendant resides in Texas. This case fails to meet the requirements of either N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.114(a)(1) or (a)(2). Subsection (a)(1) does not apply because the petitioner in this case, plaintiff, is a resident of New Jersey; and subsection (a)(2) does not apply because neither party has filed written consent to New Jersey jurisdiction with the Florida court. As Judge DeLorenzo noted, plaintiff may file for modification of the orders in defendant's home state of Texas under N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.114(a)(2). It is clear that the New Jersey courts lack the jurisdiction necessary to modify the Florida orders under the UIFSA.
With respect to plaintiff's effort to modify child support in New Jersey, she contends that Marshak, supra, conflicts with the public policy of acting in the best interests of the child. Judge DeLorenzo noted that "[t]he [p]laintiff candidly acknowledged that the real issue was whether she can hold the [d]efendant responsible for sharing the post-secondary school cost for their child." Judge DeLorenzo correctly held that the law of the issuing state, in this case Florida, governs the duration of support payments. In Florida, the parents' responsibility for post-secondary education costs terminates at age nineteen. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 743.07; Grapin v. Grapin, 450 So. 2d 853, 854 (Fla. 1984).
Accordingly, we affirm substantially for the reasons stated by Judge DeLorenzo in his Statements of Reasons appended to the orders entered on November 29, 2006 and March 14, 2007. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A).