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C.L. v. W.S.

April 17, 2009

C.L., PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
W.S., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FD-14-130-06.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Skillman, P.J.A.D.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Submitted March 3, 2009

Before Judges Skillman, Graves and Grall.

The primary issue presented by this appeal is whether defendant's act of impregnating plaintiff in New Jersey in 1986 and substantial other contacts with New Jersey around that time were sufficient to support the New Jersey courts' jurisdiction over defendant with respect to plaintiff's claims for a declaration of paternity and child support under the Parentage Act, N.J.S.A. 9:17-38 to -59.

According to plaintiff's certifications, she was engaged to and had an exclusive sexual relationship with defendant in the mid-1980s. She lived in Prospect Park, New Jersey, during her engagement and defendant spent extended periods of time at her home. Plaintiff became pregnant in 1986. Defendant asked her to have an abortion, but she refused. Defendant then ended the engagement.

Plaintiff gave birth to a daughter, Martha,*fn1 on June 22, 1987. After Martha's birth, defendant allegedly lived in Englewood, New Jersey. Defendant gave plaintiff $3000 before Martha's birth and $15,000 shortly afterwards to help with child care expenses. However, defendant did not pay plaintiff any additional money thereafter, and he disappeared a year or two later.

Plaintiff has continued to live in New Jersey since Martha's birth. Martha is now an adult, but she was born with Cerebral Palsy and, according to plaintiff, has medical problems which cause her to be "house-bound" and prevent her from working. Plaintiff alleges that Martha will be dependent upon her for support and a place to live for the rest of her life.

According to defendant's certification, he was a resident of Pennsylvania during 1986 and 1987. He denied plaintiff's paternity claim, but did not dispute any of plaintiff's other allegations regarding his engagement to and sexual relationship with her or his payments to her around the time of Martha's birth. Defendant alleges that he has been a North Carolina resident for the last eight years and was a Georgia resident for many years before that.

On August 15, 2005, plaintiff brought this action under the Paternity Act seeking a declaration of defendant's paternity of Martha and child support. Defendant was served with the complaint in North Carolina. Defendant does not question the validity of that service.

The case was brought before the court on September 16, 2005. Defendant appeared by telephone from North Carolina and his attorney appeared in the courtroom. Neither defendant nor his counsel entered a limited appearance for purposes of contesting personal jurisdiction or otherwise disputed jurisdiction. As a result of this hearing, the trial court entered an order which, among other things, ordered defendant to submit to a paternity test.

Defendant did not undergo the paternity test ordered by the court. Instead, he filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the ground that he did not have the "minimum contacts" with New Jersey required to support the jurisdiction of the New Jersey courts under the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the allegation that Martha "was conceived as a result of sexual intercourse between the parties in the [S]tate of New Jersey" was sufficient for the New Jersey courts to exercise jurisdiction over defendant. ...


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