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Tobasco v. Tobasco

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 4, 2013

PETER TOBASCO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
LORI J. TOBASCO, Defendant-Respondent.


Submitted October 1, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-744-06B.

Peter Tobasco, appellant pro se.

Ramatowski, Spilka & Schwatz, attorneys for respondent (Jean M. Ramatowski, on the brief).

Before Judges Fisher and Koblitz.


The parties were married in 1985, had two children (the oldest was born in 1991 and the youngest in 1995), and were divorced in 2006 by way of a judgment which incorporated their property settlement agreement (PSA). Pursuant to the PSA, plaintiff Peter Tobasco agreed to make weekly payments of $193 in child support and $154 in alimony to defendant Lori J.

Tobasco. These financial obligations were based on the parties' stipulated assumption that plaintiff was capable of earning at least $52, 000 per year even though he was not realizing that income at the time of the divorce.

As noted above, at issue in this appeal is the propriety of a trial court order entered on October 19, 2012. Among other things, the order: denied without prejudice plaintiff's motion for an order deeming the oldest child emancipated; denied without prejudice a termination of plaintiff's alimony obligation; denied relief regarding defendant's declaration of the youngest child as a dependent on her income tax return; and awarded defendant $1000 in counsel fees and costs.

The voluminous record on appeal – plaintiff's appendix consisted of five volumes and nearly 900 pages of material – reveals plaintiff had previously moved for both the emancipation of the oldest child and a termination of alimony; those requests were denied without prejudice on August 8, 2011. Emancipation was denied because the oldest child was enrolled in college – a circumstance the parties recognized in their PSA as precluding emancipation regardless of the child's age. Termination of alimony was denied because, even though plaintiff asserted he had been laid off by his employer, he failed to show an inability to generate the annual income imputed to him at the time of the divorce. Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration was denied for similar reasons on October 14, 2011.

In July and August 2012, plaintiff filed three motions in which he again sought, among other things, termination of his alimony obligation and the emancipation of the oldest child. The order under review disposed of these issues.

Plaintiff's lengthy appeal brief not only questions the propriety of the laws by which such applications are governed, but also asserts that the order in question deprives him of liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness, and renders him an "involuntary slave[]" to his former spouse. Plaintiff also argues that the trial judge misapplied the law. These and any other arguments that might be discerned from plaintiff's brief are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).

We need only briefly observe that continuing alimony and child support obligations do not violate the constitutional prohibitions on slavery, as plaintiff asserts. That a dissolution of a marriage often carries consequences for the parties into the future – and, at times, for the duration of the obligor's life – does not render unconstitutional a court's enforcement of those obligations.

In essence, by way of the October 19, 2012 order, the judge simply recognized that plaintiff had again failed to demonstrate an inability to earn income to the PSA's stipulated level and again failed to demonstrate the parties' oldest child should be declared emancipated notwithstanding her enrollment in college. The judge's disposition of these and the other issues in question fell well within his discretion.


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