STACEY SELIGMAN, f/k/a/ STACEY PELLEN, Plaintiff-Appellant/ Cross-Respondent,
JAMES S. PELLEN, Defendant-Respondent/ Cross-Appellant
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 17, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket No. FM-03-479-97.
David S. Rochman argued the cause for appellant/cross-respondent.
Jennifer Weisberg Millner argued the cause for respondent/cross-appellant (Fox Rothschild LLP, attorneys; Ms. Millner, of counsel and on the brief; Eliana T. Baer, on the brief).
Before Judges Sabatino and Hayden.
In this post-judgment matrimonial dispute, defendant James Pellen ("the father") and plaintiff Stacey Seligman ("the mother") each appeal certain decisions rendered by the Family Part concerning child support, emancipation, and counsel fees. For the reasons we explain, infra, we remand this matter for a plenary hearing concerning the issue of emancipation of the parties' older son and also for a reexamination of child support and counsel fees.
The parties were married in 1986. They have four children together: an older son born in October 1988, an older daughter born in February 1990, a younger daughter born in July 1993, and a younger son born in December 1995.
The parties, both of whom were then represented by counsel, entered into a consensual Final Judgment of Divorce ("FJOD") on August 31, 1998. As part of the FJOD, the mother continued to have residential custody of the four children, with parenting time provided for the father. Both parties waived alimony.
At the time of the divorce, the father was employed with an accounting firm in New York City and the mother was employed in New Jersey with a financial services firm. For purposes of the child support calculation at that time, the father's gross annual earnings were agreed to be $120, 000 and the mother's earnings were agreed to be $25, 000.
The parties agreed in the FJOD that the father's child support obligation for the four marital children would be $3, 800 per month. This support amount was divided into two distinct components. The first $2, 150 component of the total monthly amount was referred to as the "basic portion" of the father's support obligation, and was calculated using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines ("the Guidelines"). See Pressler & Verniero, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-A and IX-B to R. 5:6A at 2579, 2603 (2014). The other $1, 650 component of the total monthly amount was referred to as the "additional portion" of the father's total support obligation. As set forth in the FJOD, the father agreed to pay that additional portion because the parties "recognize[d it] as necessary in order that the [mother] may pay for work-related child care for the children and also in order that she may continue to maintain for the children their current lifestyle."
The FJOD addressed the instances in which modification of the father's child support obligation might be appropriate. Specifically, the FJOD stated that the father's basic portion of his child support payment could be modified in the "event of a change in circumstance" such as "the emancipation of any child as that term is defined under New Jersey law." The additional portion of the father's support obligation would be subject to modification only "upon the emancipation or entry into college of any child, whichever occurs first." Upon the occurrence of one ...