JOSEPH M. NEISS, Plaintiff-Respondent,
KRIS M. NEISS, Defendant-Appellant.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 2, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-142-06.
Kris M. Neiss, appellant pro se.
Caruso & Baxter, P.A., attorneys for respondent (Gregory S. Baxter, on the brief).
Before Judges Fasciale and Haas.
In this post-judgment matrimonial matter, defendant appeals from the April 2, 2012 order of the Family Part granting plaintiff's motion to emancipate the parties' son and the court's June 8, 2012 order denying defendant's motion for reconsideration and awarding plaintiff $2, 457.75 in counsel fees. We are constrained to reverse and remand because the trial court did not conduct a plenary hearing and did not make adequate findings of fact and conclusions of law.
The parties were married in 1981 and divorced on May 31, 2006. At the time of the divorce, the son was a senior in high school. The son has a history of, and receives treatment for, some disabilities. However, the parties dispute the full extent of his condition and its impact on his educational pursuits.
The parties' Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) required plaintiff to pay defendant $130 a week in child support. The PSA provided that the parties' son would be deemed emancipated as of the date of his graduation from high school unless he enrolled in an "undergraduate college." If the son attended college, the PSA stated he would "not be deemed emancipated until [he] completes undergraduate college, " provided he was a "full[-]time student in good standing, completing twelve (12) credits or more per semester, without interruption . . . ."
Upon his graduation from high school, the son enrolled at Brookdale Community College. He remained there for two years on a full-time basis. In September 2008, he transferred to Rutgers University, where he hoped to be accepted into the music program. On November 7, 2008, the parties entered into a consent order, which required them to contribute equally to their son's college costs and expenses. The son completed one full year at Rutgers, but was not accepted into the music program.
In the fall semester of 2009, the son enrolled in a four-year music program at West Chester University (WCU) in Pennsylvania. Defendant asserts that the son advised plaintiff of his plan to attend WCU before he enrolled, but plaintiff denies that he approved his son's decision to attend.
The parties also dispute WCU's program requirements. The son's transcript indicates that he was able to transfer sixty-four of the credits he previously earned at Brookdale and Rutgers to WCU. Nevertheless, defendant contends the son must still remain in the program for the full four years to earn his degree. In addition, she asserts that some of the courses the son took at WCU would not count toward his degree. However, plaintiff argues he was not advised there was a problem with the son's credits or that it would take four years for him to complete the WCU program.
Plaintiff paid half of the son's expenses at WCU for three semesters. When plaintiff failed to make any further contributions, defendant obtained an order on March 4, 2010 requiring ...