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Dione Adams v. Verlaine Noelsaint

April 14, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FM-20-936-05F.

Per curiam.


Submitted January 20, 2011

Before Judges Ashrafi and Nugent.

Plaintiff Dione Adams appeals from an order of the Family Part dated January 13, 2010, which denied her motion for reconsideration of earlier orders granting a credit to defendant Verlaine Noelsaint against his child support payments. We affirm.

The parties were married in 1999 and divorced in 2007. Their dispute involves work-related child care expenses for the parties' only child together, a son born in 2002. On May 16, 2006, the family court entered a pendente lite order establishing joint legal custody and granting primary residential custody to Adams. By agreement, and as confirmed by a sole parenting worksheet that showed almost equal net income of the two parties, Noelsaint was ordered to pay $60 per week in child support directly to Adams and an additional $160 per week directly to the child care provider, which was not identified in that order.

After the divorce, by order dated May 9, 2008, the family court identified St. Joseph Catholic School in Maplewood as the child care provider, but it ended Noelsaint's direct payments to the school as of June 13, 2008. The order directed the Union County Probation Division to commence collecting child support of $220 per week from Noelsaint. The order further stated that reasons for the court's decision were placed on the record orally on the date of the order, but Adams has not provided a transcript. There is no evidence that the May 9, 2008 order was the result of any arrears in payments of Noelsaint's obligations. Noelsaint contends that he had made regular timely payments to Adams and to St. Joseph School as directed by the May 16, 2006 order.

Shortly after Probation took control of the child support payments, Adams sought the court's approval to remove the child from St. Joseph School and to enroll him instead in public school. Noelsaint objected. By order dated August 12, 2008, the family court denied Adams's motion, directed that the child continue in catholic school for the 2008-09 school year, and ordered the parties to attend mediation on the issue of future schooling. The parties attended one session of mediation but were not able to resolve their disagreement about schooling.

After the 2008-09 school year, Adams unilaterally withdrew the boy from St. Joseph School and enrolled him in public school beginning in September 2009. On October 16, 2009, Adams moved for an increase in child support. Noelsaint filed a cross-motion on October 29, 2009, for credit for private school tuition that he had paid since the end of the previous school year. The court heard argument and entered an order on November 16, 2009, indicating that it would recalculate child support upon submission of financial documentation by the parties and granting Noelsaint a credit of $640 for overpayment of private school tuition from July through October 2009.

On November 30, 2009, the court corrected the latter credit to $160 per week for a total of $2,560 for that same time period. Also on November 30, 2009, the court entered a new child support order adjusting Noelsaint's payments to $146 per week, retroactive to October 16, 2009. Included in that calculation through use of child support worksheets was $37 per week for net work-related child care expenses of Adams.

Both parties moved for reconsideration of the November 30, 2009 orders. By order dated January 13, 2010, the court denied both parties' motions.

On appeal, Adams argues the court erred in granting too much credit on Noelsaint's child support account based on enrollment in public school. She contends she was required to pay for daycare expenses at a summer camp in 2009, and the credit to Noelsaint's child support account was overstated by $1,280 because it included credit for July and August 2009. Noelsaint responds that the payments for St. Joseph School actually ended in May 2009 and that he should also have received credit for his payments in June 2009.

Trial courts are permitted to exercise discretion in awarding financial support in a matrimonial action. Pascale v. Pascale, 140 N.J. 583, 594 (1995). "If consistent with the law, such an award 'will not be disturbed unless it is manifestly unreasonable, arbitrary, or clearly contrary to reason or to other evidence, or the result of whim or caprice.'" Foust v. Glaser, 340 N.J. Super. 312, 315-16 (App. Div. 2001) (quoting Raynor v. Raynor, 319 N.J. Super. 591, 605 (App. Div. 1999)). "'[F]indings by the trial court are binding on appeal when supported by adequate, substantial, credible evidence . . .' in the record." Id. at 316 (quoting Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 411-12 (1998)). Thus, the standard of review from the trial court's support rulings is deferential on factual determinations and conclusions derived from those facts.

The family court's January 13, 2010 order stated that the credit of $2,560 was: based upon the fact that the parties' 5/16/06 and 5/9/08 orders each allocated, by consent, $160.00 per week of defendant's obligation to 'the child care provider,' which, in the 5/9/08 order was stated to be St. Joseph Catholic School in Maplewood, N.J. As of the date defendant filed his 10/29/09 cross-motion, he had paid ...

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