On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, FM-18-718-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Reisner and Hayden.
In this post-judgment matrimonial matter, defendant Theresa Kamery (formerly Theresa Schaefer) appeals from a January 31, 2011 order of the Family Part. We affirm.
Defendant and her then-husband, plaintiff Kenneth Schaefer, were divorced in 2007. They have two sons.*fn1 Because Theresa earned more than twice as much as Kenneth, the property settlement agreement (PSA) required her to pay Kenneth limited term alimony. Although the parties shared joint legal custody, the PSA provided that the children would reside with Theresa and required Kenneth to pay Theresa child support for both sons.
In January 2008, the older son, who was then twenty years old and a college student, moved in with Kenneth. After a series of disagreements over child support and other economic issues, Kenneth filed a motion on May 22, 2008, seeking custody of the older son and a reduction in his support obligation. Theresa filed a cross-motion seeking reimbursement for assorted expenses including the cost of buying the younger son a car.
In a series of interim orders, the Family Part awarded Kenneth residential custody of the older son and reduced Kenneth's child support obligation from paying Theresa $235 a week for both children to paying her $195 a week solely for the younger son.
Following an unsuccessful attempt at mediation, the court held a plenary hearing to determine the issues of Theresa's child support obligation and the parties' respective claims for reimbursement of various expenses. During that hearing, the parties fought over issues ranging from Kenneth's alleged obligation to pay about $30 toward the cost of a school trip, to Theresa's alleged obligation to pay $10 to fix a tire on the older son's truck. Ultimately, as the judge noted, the parties expended about $70,000 in counsel fees in a dispute over less than $15,000.
Based on the hearing testimony, there was no dispute that in January 2008, the older son moved out of Theresa's home and into Kenneth's home. Kenneth claimed that Theresa kicked the son out; she claimed the son was disobedient and Kenneth voluntarily agreed to temporarily let the son live with him. Pursuant to the PSA, both parents were paying their respective shares of the son's college tuition, believing that he was attending a local college. In fact, without telling either parent, the son stopped attending college classes in the fall of 2008, and enlisted in the Marines.
Theresa testified that even when the older son was living with Kenneth, he spent considerable amounts of time at her house. Each parent testified that the older son repeatedly said he was attending school and concealed from each of them the fact that he had dropped out.
Although the 2007 PSA provided that the parties waived all economic claims that arose prior to the date of the PSA, Theresa presented testimony to support her claim that Kenneth owed her for various expenses from 2006. She also claimed that Kenneth should contribute to the cost of a car that she bought for the seventeen-year-old younger son, over Kenneth's objections. The PSA made no provision for such a purchase, but she argued that the parties' earlier purchase of a car for the older son set a "precedent," and that the parties had agreed, prior to the date of the PSA, that they would buy each child a vehicle.
The parties presented extensive testimony about their expense claims against each other, and about their unsuccessful efforts to mediate those claims. Each party blamed the other for the failure to settle the matter. During the hearing, Theresa apparently presented receipts and other documents to support her claims for the child-related expenses that Kenneth owed her. However, she also sought to introduce a document that she prepared, summarizing her claims. Over objections from Kenneth's ...