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Card v. Card

December 11, 2008


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division - Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-531-05A.

Per curiam.


Argued November 13, 2008

Before Judges Cuff, Fisher and Baxter.

Defendant David Michael Card appeals from three post-judgment orders, entered on March 23, May 18 and July 13, 2007. We affirm all three.


The parties were married on May 21, 1994, and had one child, a son born in February 1998. In relevant part, the October 31, 2005 judgment of divorce and accompanying settlement agreement (JOD) established the parties' joint legal custody of their son and designated plaintiff, Heidi Judd Card, the parent of primary residence. The JOD provided that the parties' son would attend sleep-away camp beginning in the summer of 2007, obligated the parties to equally split the cost and required the parties to arrange their two weeks of vacation with their son so the vacations would not conflict with the child's time at camp. On October 31, 2006, plaintiff wrote to defendant, proposing to send their son to Camp Killooleet (Killooleet) in Vermont for the summer of 2007 and offering to pay the entire cost of $6,600 if defendant agreed to the selection of Killooleet. Defendant objected to Killooleet's cost and location and offered other proposals. He also objected to the proposed seven-week length of the camp session because it would interfere with his vacation plans with the parties' son.

On March 23, 2007, Judge Flynn heard plaintiff's motion to approve Killoolett and require defendant to pay half the cost. After some negotiations during the motion hearing, plaintiff agreed to reduce the child's attendance at Killooleet to four weeks, thereby accommodating defendant's two weeks of vacation. Under the impression that the cost of four weeks at Killooleet would be roughly $1,500 for both parties, defendant agreed to allow their son to attend Killooleet, so long as there was no "finding that it [was] the camp of choice for the rest of the child's camp career." The parties also agreed on the selection of a parenting-time mediator to help resolve future disputes. In his order of March 23, 2007, Judge Flynn determined that the parties' son would attend Killooleet for four weeks and ordered each party to pay one-half of the Killooleet expense. The order specifically limited the camp decision to the summer of 2007. The order also named the parties' parenting-time mediator*fn1 and obligated the parties to share the cost equally.

After the March 23, 2007 order was entered, defendant sought to set up a payment plan because he claimed he lacked the ability to immediately pay his share. Plaintiff refused. The parties also discovered that the total amount for the four-week session at Killooleet was $5,454, rather than the $3,000 that the parties and Judge Flynn had assumed.*fn2

In mid-April 2007, defendant moved for reconsideration, asking the judge to select a different camp, establish a payment plan, and "cap" his camp expenses at $1,100. Defendant also certified that his income of $2,600 per month was insufficient to immediately pay plaintiff.

Some two weeks later, plaintiff paid the $1,500 retainer fee for the court-appointed parenting-time coordinator. Defendant, in contrast, refused to pay his half, explaining that he could not afford to do so.

In early May, plaintiff cross-moved to enforce the March 23, 2007 order. Specifically, she sought an order: declaring defendant in violation of litigants' rights because he failed to pay his portion of the parenting coordinator's retainer fee; requiring defendant to pay both the $1,500 retainer fee and $2,722.50, which was half the amount of the four-week Killooleet fee; enjoining defendant from sending defamatory and harassing letters to their son's school, camp and healthcare providers;*fn3 and ordering defendant to pay her counsel fees. She further sought sole legal custody until defendant had paid his share of the retainer.

The record includes copies of the letters plaintiff referred to in her certification as "harassing and slanderous." In his April 25, 2007 letter to the camp director at Killooleet, defendant wrote:

[P]lease be advised in my view any . . . meeting [between you, me and my son] might be wasteful of your time and also inappropriate. . . . I feel I need to advise you that the Sleep away camp issue is in litigation. . . . [The meeting] could also be seen as a pressure tactic on [plaintiff's] part, or as needlessly placing an unfair burden upon me. . .

As to your 'first' meeting with our son . . . [,] that was arranged totally without my knowledge. In view of the costly ramifications it was a very serious violation of our Settlement Agreement. . . . . . . .

. . . I request . . . . That you NOT have a "second" meeting with our son. . . . That you return to [plaintiff] ...

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