On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FD-02-1300-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and Waugh.
Defendant S.L. appeals from a Family Part order dated August 2, 2010, directing him to undergo blood tests pursuant to a paternity action brought by plaintiff E.M. The order also stayed enforcement pending appeal. Having reviewed the record and applicable law, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Plaintiff, a resident of New York, gave birth to a son, K.M., on July 17, 2006. Almost four years later, on May 12, 2010, she filed a petition alleging that defendant was the child's father and seeking retroactive child support from the date of K.M.'s birth. The petition was accompanied by an affidavit in which plaintiff indicated that K.M. was conceived on October 16, 2005, and that she had not had sexual intercourse with any other man within thirty days of that date. Although plaintiff asserted that defendant admitted to being the child's father, she stated that he was not listed on the birth certificate and had not signed an acknowledgement of paternity. Additionally, where plaintiff was asked to list the names and addresses of the witnesses to her and defendant's relationship as well as the "relevant facts known by each," she wrote only: "My friends and family and his friends."
Defendant was mailed a summons on May 28, 2010, and his attorney appeared in court to dispute paternity on August 2, 2010. After meeting briefly with a hearing officer, defense counsel and an attorney from the Bergen County Board of Social Services (the Board) made oral arguments before the Family Part.
Noting that plaintiff had waited four years to file her application and had made "purely conclusory" allegations, defendant's attorney requested that the court deny the application for blood tests without prejudice so as to avoid a violation of defendant's constitutional rights. He instead requested that the court "give [him] an opportunity to take [plaintiff's] deposition" and "ask her to [provide] the names of her witnesses." Counsel for the Board argued that the four-year gap was irrelevant and that the allegations in plaintiff's affidavit were sufficient to provide reasonable articulable suspicion that defendant was K.M.'s father.
After reviewing the case law presented by the parties, the court ordered defendant to submit to a blood test. It reasoned that plaintiff's sworn statement "that she had not engaged in sexual intercourse with another man during the time frame 30 days before or 30 days after the child was conceived [was] sufficient to satisfy the statutory requirements." Upon defense counsel's request, however, the court granted a stay pending appeal. An order memorializing the decision was entered that day.
Defendant now presents the following arguments for our consideration:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY ORDERING THE DEFENDANT-MOVANT TO SUBMIT TO GENETIC TESTING BECAUSE THE RECORD WAS DEVOID OF ANY SUBSTANTIAL OR CREDIBLE EVIDENCE.
THE COURT SHOULD APPLY A DE NOVO STANDARD OF REVIEW TO THIS MATTER BECAUSE THE RECORD WAS DEVOID OF ANY ...