Emancipation Granted And Alimony Increase Denied
- September 14, 2015
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Dripps v. Dripps, is an appeal from a Family Court Order issued pursuant to the parties post-judgment divorce Motions with regard to alimony and emancipation. The Defendant, ex-wife, moved before the court for an increase in her alimony. The Plaintiff, ex-husband, brought a Cross-Motion for relief which included the emancipation of the parties’ two (2) children. The Family Court issued an Order denying an increase in alimony, granting the emancipation of the children, and denying the Motion for reconsideration. The Defendant appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Family Division. On appeal, the Defendant essentially sought to re-litigate the property settlement agreement (PSA) that was incorporated into the parties’ final judgment of divorce. Specifically, the Defendant contested the Family Court’s failure to increase her alimony and the grant of emancipation of her children. According to the Appellate Court, on appeal, legal issues involving the interpretation of a contract are subject to plenary review. Vosough v. Kierce,437 N.J. Super. 218, 241, 97 A.3d 1150 (App. Div. 2014), certif. denied, 221 N.J. 218, 110 A.3d 931 (2015). “A trial court’s interpretation of the law and the legal consequences that flow from established facts” are not entitled to “special deference” on appeal. Manalapan Realty, L.P. v. Twp. Comm. of Twp. of Manalapan, 140 N.J. 366, 378, 658 A.2d 1230 (1995). However, the Family Court’s findings of fact should be upheld “if they are supported by adequate, substantial and credible evidence on the record” and they are not “so wide of the mark that a mistake must have been made.” N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. M.M., 189 N.J. 261, 279, 914 A.2d 1265 (2007). When a Motion or a Cross Motion is brought for enforcement or modification of a prior Order or Judgment, a copy of the Order or Judgment sought to be enforced or modified shall be appended to the pleading filed in support of the Motion. N.J. Court Rule 5:5-4. Further, when a Motion is brought for the entry or modification of an Order or Judgment for alimony or child support based upon a showing of changed circumstances, the pleading filed in support of that Motion shall have appended to it a copy of the prior Case Information Statements (CIS). Id. The Defendant failed to submit the prior Judgement of Divorce (JOD) and PSA and failed to submit the requisite CIS, and therefore the Appellate Division found that the court properly denied her Motion. With regard to the emancipation, one of the children was twenty-three (23) and the other twenty-two (22), working and had not attended college for three (3) semesters. According to the Appellate Court, the circumstances of the children at the time of the hearing clearly met the parties’ PSA definition of emancipation and public policy favors settlement of litigation. Bistricer v. Bistricer, 231 N.J. Super. 143, 151, 555 A.2d 45 (Ch. Div. 1987). An agreement to settle litigation is a contract, which like all contracts freely entered into, should be honored and enforced absent fraud or other compelling circumstances. Brundage v Estate of Carambio, 195 N.J. 575, 601, 951 A.2d 947 (2008). Therefore, the decisions of the Family Court were affirmed. Being that the laws governing alimony have recently been changed, it is very important that you seek out the advice of an attorney to protect your rights an entitlements. If you think that it may be beneficial for you to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your alimony or emancipation status of your children or for any other reason it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about alimony, divorce, post-judgment modification, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit the DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.