NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted August 20, 2013.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Atlantic County, Docket No. FD-01-1041-10.
Atlantic County Department of Law, attorney for appellant (Audrey M. Sharp, Assistant County Counsel, on the brief).
Respondent has not filed a brief.
Before Judges Graves and Simonelli.
The Atlantic County Board of Social Services (Board of Social Services) appeals from a January 31, 2012 order, which terminated defendant Alexander Hernandez's child support obligation and arrears, and a subsequent order denying its motion for reconsideration. Neither Yashamira Sanders nor Hernandez participated in the appeal. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Sanders gave birth to a child, Y.H., on September 7, 2009. Hernandez was listed as the father on the child's birth certificate, and a consent order for paternity was entered on March 3, 2010. Following a hearing on April 15, 2010, Hernandez was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $83 per week effective January 6, 2010, plus $30 per week in arrears, which totaled $1245. Hernandez was also ordered to provide medical coverage and to pay 100% of the child's unreimbursed medical costs in excess of $250 per year.
At some point, Sanders began to receive Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) for Y.H., which is part of the Work First New Jersey Act. N.J.S.A. 44:10-55 to -78. After the Division of Youth and Family Services became involved with the family, a paternity test was conducted in October 2011. The test revealed a 0.00% probability that Hernandez was the father of Y.H. Thereafter, on December 8, 2011, Hernandez filed a motion to terminate his child support payments and arrears based on the paternity test results that excluded him as the child's father.
Following oral argument, the court entered an order on January 31, 2012, terminating Hernandez's child support obligation and his arrears totaling $5, 608.99. The order stated Hernandez was "disestablished as the biological father of the minor child [Y.H.]" and vacated any obligation to pay support arrears to the Board of Social Services.
A motion for reconsideration filed by the Board of Social Services was heard on April 11, 2012. Neither Sanders nor Hernandez was present at the hearing. The attorney for the Board of Social Services argued that Hernandez's support obligation could "not be retroactively modified." With regard to paternity, counsel stated:
[COUNSEL]: We would submit that Mr. Hernandez attended both a case management conference as well as a hearing officer hearing and consented to ...