In Child Relocation Case, Appeal Is Only Possible After An Adjudication
- July 8, 2014
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In the recent post-judgment matrimonial case, Russitano v. Russitano, John Russitano appealed from a 2012 Court Order that directed action based upon his ex-wife’s Motion to relocate the parties’ children to Alabama and recalculate his child support obligation. The Appellate Court could not rule on appeal because the Family Court Order did not issue a final disposition on issues involved with the case. The parties in this case were married in 2000 and three (3) children were born of the marriage. On June 27, 2011, they were divorced pursuant to a Final Judgment of Divorce with their own negotiated Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) incorporated. In 2012, the Defendant, Melissa Russitano, filed a Motion with the court to relocate with the children to Alabama and to modify the parties’ PSA to increase John’s child support obligation. John filed a cross-motion seeking a recalculation of his child support obligation and to enforce the parenting time provisions contained in the PSA. After hearing oral argument, the Family Court judge issued an order directing that the parties engage mediation to attempt to resolve the relocation issues and the custody and parenting time issues. The judge also ordered that John’s child support obligation be re-evaluated based upon his three most recent pay stubs. John appealed from this Order. The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the lower court holding that, although John disagrees with his ex-wife’s request to relocate to Alabama with their children, he failed to challenge the lower court’s order referring the parties to mediation or the determination to hold a plenary hearing on the removal of the children if the parties are unable to reach a decision. The Appellate Court concluded that the Family Court judge’s order on this issue was not a final disposition of the issue at the time that the appeal was filed because the court had never ruled on Melissa’s Motion requesting permission to relocate with the parties’ children. As such, a party is required to seek leave to appeal according to Rule 2:5-6(a), and neither party did so. As required under Rule 2:2-3(a)(1), the Appellate Court has jurisdiction to consider appeals from “final judgments of the Superior Court trial divisions.” In all other cases, jurisdiction to consider an interlocutory matter is only granted upon leave of the court. Rule. 2:2-4. Therefore, this claim was dismissed. Next, regarding the child support issue, the Family Court is given substantial discretion to determine child support awards and other support obligations based upon the ruling in Foust v. Glaser, 340 N.J. Super., 312, 315 (App. Div. 2001). In this case, the Appellate Division found no reason to disturb the ruling of the Family Court as there was no basis to do so as the lower court’s decision to order a recalculation of the obligation was appropriate. Disputes regarding child relocation and child support can be of the most important in family law because of the substantial impact that decisions regarding these issues will have upon the lives of the parties and their children. If you are involved in a child relocation or child support dispute it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before proceeding. For more information on child relocation, child support, post judgment modification, divorce, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.