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Ward v. Ward

January 28, 2009

KATHLEEN WARD, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
STEPHEN WARD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, No. FM-13-634-93.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 18, 2008

Before Judges Wefing and Parker.

Defendant appeals from two post-judgment orders entered by the trial court. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

The parties were divorced pursuant to a judgment of divorce entered on January 3, 1994. During their marriage, the parties had four daughters--Kara, Kristin, Jennifer and Stephanie. The parties' dispute revolves around the two younger girls, Jennifer and Stephanie, the older two having been emancipated for some period of time. At the time the parties returned to court in connection with this dispute, defendant was paying $1200 per month in child support for Jennifer and Stephanie, payable through probation.

On May 31, 2006, defendant filed a motion to emancipate both Jennifer and Stephanie. At the time defendant filed his motion, Jennifer was twenty-one years old. She was working part-time as a receptionist in a chiropractor's office and was not pursuing any further education. Stephanie was twenty years old and had completed course work in medical billing. Plaintiff opposed the application, contending that Jennifer had certain psychological disabilities which precluded her emancipation and that Stephanie wanted to continue with further schooling. Stephanie's efforts, however, at Brookdale Community College had not been notably successful.

The trial court conducted a hearing on January 17, 2007, at which plaintiff presented the testimony of Robert LoPresti, Ph.D., Jennifer's treating psychologist. He testified that Jennifer suffered from attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, insomnia and bereavement. This latter diagnosis was due to her having recently lost several friends in automobile accidents and the death of an uncle.

Plaintiff also testified at this hearing. She outlined the difficulties Stephanie had experienced at Brookdale. She had taken courses on a sporadic basis but had only a 2.2 grade point average. She also did some baby-sitting, but did not earn enough to support herself.

At the conclusion of the hearing defendant requested the opportunity to have both girls examined by his own expert, not with an eye to litigation but with the intent of providing assistance to them. Defendant's attorney made the following statement to the court.

I did speak with Mr. Ward. [I]f Your Honor would allow me, I would like to offer somewhat of a compromise to my client's motion. This is my client's motion. What my client, separating the daughters, with respect to Jennifer what my client would like to do is in the spirit of having to help Jennifer to the best of her ability what he would do, what he would like to do is withdraw that part of his application to emancipate Jennifer.

However, he would like to have that since he felt that listening to the testimony there has not been a complete record built as to maybe some of the causes to help Jennifer or with some of the causes of her problems, he'd like to hire a professional of his own and have her examined and see how he could jump in and help out with therapy, medication, whatever it is. Because it seems as if she needs help.

Following that hearing, the trial court entered an order on January 17, 2007, which noted that it was suspending its determination with respect to emancipation. It continued defendant's child support obligation for Jennifer, at the rate of $800 per month, and suspended child support for Stephanie.

The hearing resumed on August 1, 2007, and defendant presented Jeffrey Kargman, M.D., as a witness. Dr. Kargman is a psychiatrist, and he examined both young women. Dr. Kargman did not agree with the diagnoses that Dr. LoPresti had reached with respect to Jennifer. He found no signs of attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression or insomnia. He did agree that she suffered from some bereavement as a result of ...


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