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Kristin O'connell v. andrew Nataloni

December 27, 2010

KRISTIN O'CONNELL, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ANDREW NATALONI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-5328-86.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted December 15, 2010

Before Judges Fisher and Fasciale.

In this third appeal*fn1 from post-judgment orders entered in this matrimonial action, defendant Andrew Nataloni contends that the trial judge erred in holding that the parties' only child had not become emancipated after her graduation from college either as a matter of law or pursuant to the terms of their property settlement agreement (PSA). We conclude that the trial judge properly interpreted the PSA's unique emancipation provision and affirm.

The parties were married in 1983; their only child, Heidi, was born in 1984. The parties separated soon after Heidi's birth. They entered into a PSA and were divorced by way of a judgment entered on September 14, 1988. The parties thereafter disputed various issues mostly related to child support and counsel fees, which, as we have noted, resulted in prior appeals to this court. The disposition of those appeals has no bearing here.

Heidi attended and graduated from Fordham University on May 20, 2006 with a degree in theatre arts. She thereafter secured employment as a lighting director with a theatre and, on March 6, 2008, she was accepted into the Master's Program at the Central School of Speech and Drama within the University of London.

In May 2008, two years after Heidi graduated from Fordham University, defendant moved for an order declaring that Heidi was emancipated and other related relief; plaintiff Kristen O'Connell cross-moved for an order awarding child support arrears and other relief. The judge determined that a plenary hearing was required to determine whether Heidi should be deemed emancipated. After the hearing, the judge issued a written opinion, holding that Heidi was not emancipated and imposing on defendant an obligation to pay sixty-eight percent of the costs to be incurred by Heidi in pursuing a master's degree.

Defendant appealed, raising the following arguments for our consideration:

I. HEIDI IS EMANCIPATED AS A MATTER OF LAW.

II. HEIDI IS EMANCIPATED UNDER THE TERMS OF THE PSA.

III. DEFENDANT SHOULD BE RELIEVED OF HIS OBLIGATION TO CONTRIBUTE TO HEIDI'S POSTGRADUATE MASTERS PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON.

IV. FAIRNESS, JUDICIAL ECONOMY AND THE AVOIDANCE OF UNNECESSARY LITIGATION REQUIRE THAT THE COURT EXERCISE ORIGINAL JURISDICTION AND DECLARE HEIDI EMANCIPATED AS OF OCTOBER 2009.

We find insufficient merit in Points III and IV to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We reject Points I ...


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