On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-1935-99.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued Telephonically March 30, 2012
Before Judges Fuentes, Koblitz and Haas.
Steven T. Schrader appeals from the July 8, 2011 Family Part order denying his application to emancipate the parties' son and terminate child support. He seeks enforcement of the parties' California marital settlement agreement (MSA). We agree with Schrader that the MSA takes precedence over New Jersey law regarding emancipation of a child under these circumstances and reverse.
The parties were married in California on June 1, 1991, and their son was born in April 1993. They obtained a final Judgment of Divorce (JOD) in November 1997, which approved and incorporated the September 18, 1997 MSA.
The wife, Kasey A. Passaic, was represented by counsel with regard to the MSA. Schrader represented himself. The MSA anticipated Passaic's move to New Jersey with their son after September 30, 1997. Paragraph 30 of the MSA was entitled "Reservation of Jurisdiction." It provided in part that "there shall be reserved to the San Diego County Superior Court the jurisdiction to . . . [s]upervise the overall enforcement of this Agreement." Paragraph 36e of the MSA reads:
This Agreement is entered into in the State of California and shall be construed and interpreted under and in accordance with the laws of said State, applicable to Agreements made, and to be wholly performed in the State of California.
Paragraph 10, "Child Support," states that the parties agree that it is in the best interest of their son that child support shall consist of each parent depositing $200 into the child's trust account each month. The paragraph goes on to state:
Child support shall cease on further order or when the child becomes emancipated, reaches age 19, reaches age 18 and is not a full-time high school student, or reaches age 18, is a full-time high school student, but is self-supporting, whichever occurs first.
Passaic docketed the California JOD in New Jersey on October 19, 1999. She then applied in New Jersey for a modification of child support. Her application was granted by an April 14, 2000 order stating that the final California JOD, which does not provide for a direct payment of child support, be and hereby is modified to reflect the ruling of this [c]court that the [d]efendant shall pay child support to the [p]laintiff on a weekly basis . . .
The order directed Schrader to pay support through the Monmouth County Probation Department pursuant to the New Jersey Child Support Guideline calculation attached to the order. See R. 5:6A.
In 2002, Passaic petitioned to modify the custody and visitation provisions of the MSA. The New Jersey Family Part Judge communicated with her California counterpart pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), N.J.S.A. 2A:34-53 to -95, and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), 28 U.S.C.S. § 1738A. The two judges agreed that California retained jurisdiction over the matter because Schrader was still a California resident and the San Diego Superior Court did not decline jurisdiction. The San Diego Superior Court subsequently decided the issues.
In 2004, the New Jersey court reduced child support pursuant to the completed New Jersey Child Support Guidelines worksheet. The March 5, 2004 order reads in part: this [c]court has jurisdiction to consider the issue of child support in light of the finding that child support was never addressed in the State of California and that the Superior Court of ...