On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FD-12-1141-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 22, 2012
Before Judges Sabatino and Fasciale.
In this appeal involving the parents of two children, plaintiff Meseret Tamirie ("the mother") contests various orders issued by the Family Part. In particular, the mother seeks review of orders (1) allowing defendant Abiy Yacob ("the father") to recoup from her $719.10 in airfare costs that he expended on a planned holiday trip intending to visit the children, and (2) compelling her to reimburse the father the sum of $4079, representing a portion of his counsel fees. We affirm.
The parties, who were never married, have twin daughters. As of the time of the filing of the mother's appellate brief in April 2012, the daughters were eight years old. The daughters reside with the mother in New Jersey. The father resides in California, and he has been granted parenting time with the daughters. He also has been judicially granted access to the children through telephone and electronic means.
As the trial court found, the mother has resisted the father's efforts to maintain contact with the daughters. Although the mother maintains that such contact is harmful to the daughters, the court did not find that her assertions in that regard were justified. Without detailing here the entire history of incidents and ensuing motions over parenting time issues, the record indicates that the mother has repeatedly interfered with the father's attempts to spend time with the daughters.
The airfare reimbursement directive stemmed from the mother's unilateral cancellation of parenting time that the father had been scheduled to have in New Jersey with the daughters in December 2010. The relevant background can be summarized as follows.
In October 2010, the mother filed an order to show cause with the Family Part seeking to block the father's parenting time, based upon accusations that he was causing the daughters emotional distress. Although the trial judge initially accepted those accusations and suspended the father's planned visit that month with the children, on further reflection the judge found at a hearing on November 12, 2010 that there was "no direct proof that correlates the behavior and the emotional outbursts of the children to the father."
The judge ordered a best-interests evaluation of the children and, in the meantime, reinstated the father's parenting time. As part of that ruling, the judge authorized the father to visit with the children during the Christmas holidays in December 2010.
The judge further ordered on November 12, 2010 that the mother reimburse the father a $500 portion of his incurred counsel fees. In that respect, the judge observed:
I am concerned with the motions to reconsider the motions to reconsider, the multiple filing of the time lines and waiting [until] the week of the planned visit [for October 2010] which he already purchased the ticket for and lost money as a result of, when the order was issued on September 16th. And as I expressed in my opening remarks, it does appear to me that there is some interference with parenting time. It happened in May, it happened in October, and as pointed out by counsel, the teacher's letter that the [c]court was concerned with predated those motions and should have been filed with the prior motions.
At the same time, balancing that with affordability, I am concerned that the [mother's] unemployment makes her unable to afford to pay the full bill, which, according to counsel's certification, is in excess of $2800. But I think that . . . I need to send the message that you cannot keep filing ...