On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-570-98.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Carchman and Parrillo.
Defendant Steven Melici appeals from a November 28, 2008 order of the Family Part denying defendant's motion: 1) to declare his and plaintiff Margaret Mulcahey F/K/A Margaret Melici's twenty-three year old daughter emancipated and 2) terminate child support for the daughter. In addition, the order fixed child support at $258 per week and ordered defendant to contribute fifty-nine percent towards the cost of the child's master's degree program at Monmouth University (the program). At oral argument, we were advised that as a result of the daughter's financial package at Monmouth, including scholarships and loans, no financial burdens will be imposed on her parents. The only issues remaining in dispute are emancipation and child support for the year preceding the daughter's entry into the program as well as the current year. As to these issues, we affirm.
We briefly set forth the relevant facts. The parties were married on April 20, 1985, and three children*fn1 - one daughter and two sons - were born of the marriage. The parties were divorced on March 31, 1999, by Judgment of Divorce, which incorporated a property settlement agreement (PSA).
According to the PSA, defendant was obligated to pay plaintiff $1,000 per month in child support. The parties also agreed that they would "contribute towards the higher education expenses incurred on behalf of the minor children . . . in accordance with their financial ability to do so . . . after such children use his/her own money and seeks all loans, grants, and other sources of financial aid." The PSA also provided that, among other criteria, emancipation will occur upon "the completion of a post high school course of study, completed in a timely fashion . . ."
On May 20, 2008, the daughter graduated from Monmouth University with a B.A. in History and $67,440 in student loan debt. She applied to the program at Monmouth, and took an economics course at Brookdale College during the Fall 2008 semester, as a prerequisite.
On October 15, 2008, defendant moved to declare the daughter emancipated as well as terminate child support effective May 20, 2008. In response, plaintiff filed a cross-motion seeking to have defendant's child support obligation increased due to his increased earnings and to compel defendant to contribute to the costs of graduate school.
Plaintiff claimed that she, defendant and the daughter had agreed during the daughter's junior year of college that she would pursue a Master's Degree in Teaching. Defendant maintains that although they discussed these plans, there was no agreement that either party would be responsible for the costs. Plaintiff further claimed that the daughter was unemployable with her undergraduate degree alone.
Following argument, Judge Coogan entered an order denying defendant's request to emancipate the daughter and terminate child support. The order further fixed defendant's child support obligation to $258.00 per week for the daughter, and ordered defendant to "contribute 59% towards higher education costs of [the daughter]."
The daughter began the program in May 2009. As we were advised, all costs are now expected to be covered by financial assistance, without contribution from either party.
On appeal, defendant asserts that he is entitled to a plenary hearing and in any event, the daughter should have been declared emancipated.
In Filippone v. Lee, 304 N.J. Super. 301 (App. Div. 1997), we restated the guiding principles for ...