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Bell v. Bell

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

July 10, 2013

NICOLE BELL, n/k/a NICOLE PIRES, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DARREN BELL, Defendant-Respondent.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 28, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-1526-09.

Jacobowitz & Defino, P.C., attorneys (Benjamin M. Hoffman, on the brief).

Respondent has not filed a brief.

Before Judges Parrillo, Sabatino and Fasciale.

PER CURIAM.

In this one-sided appeal, plaintiff Nicole Pires, the mother of the parties' minor child, K.B., appeals various aspects of post-judgment orders entered by the Family Part on February 27, 2012 and April 23, 2012. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we remand the issues for further proceedings in the Family Part.

Plaintiff and defendant Darren Bell were married in May 2003. They have one child together, K.B., who was born in June 2007. Plaintiff is a government clerical employee. Defendant had been employed as a home health aide, although he was unemployed at the time of the post-judgment motions at issue.

A final judgment of divorce, with an attached matrimonial settlement agreement ("MSA"), was entered in August 2010. The MSA incorporated aspects of a consent order that had been previously entered in 2010 concerning custody and parenting time. Those provisions included certain restrictions on the child's interactions with the woman who was then defendant's girlfriend, whom he eventually married.

The MSA designated plaintiff as the primary residential parent of K.B., with defendant having substantial parenting time. Applying the state child support guidelines, the MSA required defendant to pay plaintiff $147 weekly in child support, based upon his imputed annual income of $38, 000.

At some point after the divorce judgment was entered, defendant married his girlfriend, who is now K.B.'s stepmother. She gave birth to a child and then became pregnant with twins, increasing the number of defendant's dependents. Plaintiff likewise has remarried and had twins.

After disputes arose between the divorced parties, mainly concerning their daughter, plaintiff moved for post-judgment relief in the latter part of 2011. Defendant similarly cross-moved on various issues. All told, plaintiff and defendant each sought over twenty items of relief. Defendant, who was unemployed and receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families ("TANF") benefits, moved to reduce his child support payments. Upon examining the parties' copious submissions, the motion judge issued a sixteen-page order, containing forty-two detailed paragraphs, on February 27, 2012. The order granted each party's requests in part and denied them in part. Within the body of the order, the motion judge detailed reasons explaining the bulk of her discrete rulings. With respect to defendant's request to reduce his child support obligations, the court denied the request without prejudice, ordering both parties to submit additional financial documents.

After defendant submitted additional financial documents, and over plaintiff's opposition, the court entered an order on April 23, 2012, suspending defendant's child support obligations as of March 26, 2012. The suspension was to be in effect until defendant stopped receiving TANF ...


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