November 21, 2011
TEHMINA ALI, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
SHAUKAT ALI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Sussex County, Docket No. FM-19-307-99.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 7, 2011
Before Judges Sabatino and Fasciale.
In this post-divorce matrimonial action, defendant-father appeals from (1) a July 9, 2010 order emancipating the parties' two oldest children (F.S.M. born in 1982, and A.A., born in 1987), requiring defendant to pay child support for F.S.M. until his emancipation date, and ordering the exchange of the parties' financial information for the court to recalculate the amount of defendant's child support obligation for the parties' youngest child (M.M., born in 1993);*fn1 and (2) an October 15, 2010 order modifying defendant's child support for M.M.*fn2 We affirm.
The parties were divorced on December 31, 2002, and have had extensive litigation stemming from their relationship.*fn3 In May 2010, defendant filed a motion seeking to emancipate F.S.M. and A.A. and to compel plaintiff to disclose the location, address, and salary of the older children. In June 2010, plaintiff cross-moved to compel defendant to pay child support arrears through probation and increase his child support obligation for M.M.
On July 9, 2010, the judge conducted oral argument, issued an oral opinion, and entered an order. The judge granted defendant's motion and emancipated F.S.M. effective May 20, 2004 and A.A. effective May 22, 2009. Because the judgment of divorce (JOD) required defendant to pay $30 per week in child support for F.S.M. from January 1, 2003 to F.S.M.'s emancipation and the amount had not been calculated in the child support guidelines since the date of the JOD, the judge ordered defendant to pay $2,164 in child support for F.S.M. for that period. The judge denied defendant's request to learn the location, address, and salary of F.S.M. and A.A., stating:
[The] information is no longer relevant to these proceedings. Furthermore, [d]efendant knows where the two children are[,] having improperly sought to subpoena them and their employers. Prospectively, their wages are none of [d]efendant's concern unless the children choose to tell him.
The judge then granted plaintiff's cross-motion and ordered defendant to pay child support through probation pursuant to prior orders. Finally, the judge directed the parties to submit current W-2 forms in order to recalculate defendant's child support obligation for M.M.
On October 15, 2010, relying on the parties' W-2s, the judge entered an order modifying defendant's child support obligations. The two-page handwritten order stated:
Effective 5/22/09 [(the date of A.A.'s emancipation)] defendant's child support is modified to $184 per week. . . . . The court included the $250 per week [in alimony] which [defendant] pays plaintiff. Plaintiff was given the allowance for the parties' son and was designated [h]ead of [h]ousehold and [defendant] was designated as married as he remarried since the parties' divorce. [Defendant] claim[ed] health benefits on behalf of [M.M.] which the [c]court calculate[d]. . . . . [The c]court calculates 73 weeks from 5/22/09 through 10/15/10 at the difference of $161 per week or a credit to [defendant] of $11,753. [Defendant] shall pay child support of $100 per week, though, receiving a credit of $84 per week until the credit is exhausted. Probation shall adjust its records accordingly.
On October 28, 2010, the judge amplified his orders and reasons:
The December 3, 2002 [JOD] with written opinion dated December 23, 2002 specifically provides:
Pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines, the weekly child support due plaintiff from the defendant for the two minor children, [A.A. and M.M.], is $239 weekly, and child support shall be adjusted to that figure as of January 1, 2003.
The Guidelines are not intended to address the financial needs of the children who have graduated high school, but are not yet emancipated, such as [F.S.M.] who is attending college. [F.S.M.] is sheltered and fed at the dorm nine months of the year, but plaintiff must provide for his other needs for the entire year . . .[;] thus the [c]court directs that defendant's support for [F.S.M.] will consist of $30 weekly to be paid to plaintiff.
Therefore, the [c]court calculated the support at $30 per week from January 1, 2003 until [F.S.M.'s] emancipation on May 20, 2004. [Defendant] has not paid support for [F.S.M.] in spite of his contention to the contrary. The [c]court then emancipated
[A.A] effective May 22, 2009 and the purpose of the [October 15, 2010] court [o]rder was to calculate support for the one remaining child - [M.M.] - effective May 23, 2009.
On appeal, defendant primarily contends that plaintiff should reimburse him for child support for F.S.M. from May 19, 2004 to December 30, 2010. Defendant argues that the withholding from his paycheck demonstrates that child support is being wrongly garnished. We find this argument misplaced. We employ a limited scope of review over the factual findings of the Family Part. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 411 (1998). We only disturb a family court's findings of fact if "'manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant and reasonably credible evidence.'" Crespo v. Crespo, 395 N.J. Super. 190, 193-94 (App. Div. 2007)(quoting Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co. of Am., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974)). Family courts have "special jurisdiction and expertise in family matters," Cesare, supra, 154 N.J. at 413, and we defer to their findings unless "'so wholly un-supportable as to result in a denial of justice.'" Colca v. Anson, 413 N.J. Super. 405, 413 (App. Div. 2010) (quoting Meshinsky v. Nichols Yacht Sales, Inc., 110 N.J. 464, 475 (1988)).
Here, credible evidence supports the judge's decision to emancipate F.S.M. effective May 20, 2004 and order defendant to pay child support of $30 per week from the JOD's effective date of January 1, 2003 through F.S.M.'s emancipation. We see no reason to disturb these findings, neither of which appear to be contested by defendant on appeal. The judge did not order defendant to pay child support for F.S.M. after the date of emancipation.*fn4 The judge considered the arguments of the parties, reviewed the financial records, ordered defendant to pay child support arrears through probation, and recalculated defendant's child support obligations after emancipating F.S.M. and A.A.
We have fully considered the entire record and find defendant's remaining contentions unpersuasive. We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed in the judge's July 9, 2009 oral opinion and order, his handwritten reasons in the October 15, 2010 order, and his October 28, 2010 amplification of reasons.