On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, Docket No. FD-16-914-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 23, 2009
Before Judges Payne and Waugh.
Plaintiff Rosemary Thomas appeals from an order of the Chancery Division, Family Part, denying her application for payment of child support by defendant Craig Rodgers, the father of two children of Thomas's deceased daughter. We reverse.
Thomas's daughter died in an automobile accident in October 2007. Thomas sought and was granted temporary custody of the daughter's three children. Rodgers, the father of two of the children, and his parents subsequently filed a counterclaim seeking custody. The third child is not involved in this litigation because she has a different father.
On November 20, 2007, Thomas filed a complaint seeking child support from Rodgers. Because Rodgers had been paying child support to the children's deceased mother, Thomas also requested that the money in the daughter's child support account be released to her. For reasons not explained in the record, Thomas's application was not adjudicated at that time.
Thomas also applied to the Middlesex County Board of Social Services (Middlesex Board) for a grant under the temporary assistance to needy families program (TANF), which is part of the Work First New Jersey program. Thomas advised the Middlesex Board that she had requested child support for the two children fathered by Rodgers. She agreed that she would notify the Middlesex Board when she received any child support, so that the Board could be reimbursed for the amount of the grant.
Thomas began receiving the grant in January 2008, retroactive to November 27, 2007. Thomas understood that her TANF grant might be terminated once she started to received child support. She was receiving approximately $322 per month from TANF for the two children involved in this case, while Rodgers' child support obligation to their mother had been approximately $220 per week.
The custody trial began in March 2008. Thomas's attorney notified the trial judge that Thomas was not receiving any child support, despite her previous request. On April 1, 2008, a member of the judge's staff advised the attorney that the judge had contacted the Passaic County Probation Division (Probation) to request that the child support be released to Thomas.
On May, 1, 2008, Thomas's attorney again advised the trial judge that Thomas had not yet received any child support. The trial judge expressed concern about the fact that Thomas was receiving TANF and, at the same time, requesting child support. He directed Probation to continue to hold the child support pending a determination of the custody matter.
On June 25, 2008, the trial judge transferred custody of the two children to Rodgers and his parents. The actual transfer occurred on July 5, 2008.
Thomas then renewed her request for the child support for the period during which she had temporary custody. On August 22, 2008, the judge ordered Probation to conduct an audit of the account to determine if any repayment were due to the Middlesex, Essex or Passaic Boards of Social Services, the latter two having ...