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Melanie Miller, F/K/A Melanie Tafaro v. Stephen Tafaro

May 27, 2011

MELANIE MILLER, F/K/A MELANIE TAFARO, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
STEPHEN TAFARO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hunterdon County and Warren County, Docket No. FM-10-339-03.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 12, 2011

Before Judges Graves, Waugh and St. John.

In these consolidated appeals, defendant Stephen Tafaro seeks reversal of two post-judgment matrimonial orders relating to college costs for his children. The first order was entered on March 1, 2010, by Judge Julie M. Marino,*fn1 and the second was entered on June 23, 2010, by Judge Kimarie Rahill. We affirm.

The factual background of the parties' relationship and ongoing disputes has been outlined in four prior decisions by this court. Miller v. Tafaro, Nos. A-2120-09 & A-3039-09 (January 7, 2011) (Tafaro IV); Tafaro v. Tafaro, No. A-4469-07 (May 12, 2009) (Tafaro III); Tafaro v. Tafaro, No. A-1189-05 (August 16, 2006) (Tafaro II); Tafaro v. Tafaro, No. A-4402-04 (July 13, 2006) (Tafaro I). Therefore, we will provide only a brief summary.

Following a seventeen-year marriage, the parties divorced on June 2, 2004. They have two children: Andrew, born in 1989, and Emily, born in 1990. The parties' property settlement agreement (PSA) provided for joint legal custody of the children and indicated that future college costs would be addressed "at the time they are incurred." It further stated that "the input of both parents" would be relevant to the children's college choice and that neither parent could "unreasonably withhold consent."

However, a Family Part order entered on November 4, 2004, granted plaintiff "final authority" regarding "major decisions affecting [the] children," including "schooling." Defendant sought reconsideration and ultimately appealed, but we affirmed the order in Tafaro I, supra, slip op. at 15.

Several years later, plaintiff sought contribution from defendant for Andrew and Emily to attend Rutgers University and Bryn Mawr College, respectively. On March 20, 2008, the court entered an order apportioning the parties' responsibility for college costs based on their relative income. Defendant's portion was set at 75%, and plaintiff's at 25%. Defendant again appealed, and we affirmed. Tafaro III, supra, slip op. at 13.

Over the years that followed, plaintiff repeatedly sought enforcement of these two orders by the Family Part, and defendant fought to avoid payment, claiming that he retained joint legal custody and had withheld his consent for the children to attend their chosen schools. Nevertheless, the court consistently enforced the terms of the November 4, 2004, and March 20, 2008 orders. Judge Ann R. Bartlett presided over most of the proceedings.

Defendant sued Judge Bartlett in December 2009, alleging that she had violated his civil rights. Although the complaint was dismissed, Judge Bartlett recused herself, and the orders at issue were entered by Judges Marino and Rahill.

In relevant part, the March 1, 2010 order denied defendant's requests to (1) "reword" a prior order that required the Hunterdon County Probation Department "to provide Defendant with an itemized list of all child and spousal support arrears"; and (2) credit the amount of $24,223.48 to defendant's child support account due to "excessive child support paid." The June 23, 2010 order required defendant to pay a total of $27,913.40 for his children's Spring and Summer 2010 college costs. It also denied as moot defendant's request for Judge Bartlett to recuse herself and rejected defendant's applications for an injunction "on all monetary orders," "a full plenary hearing to justify the monetary awards," and reimbursement for costs and fees.

Defendant raises the following issues on appeal ...


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