Resolving Emancipation, Child Support Refund, and Money Owed to Other Party After Parties Engaged in Extensive Litigation in Years Prior

Daniels v. Daniels

Docket No. A-5001-17T3

Decided August 28, 2020

Submitted by New Jersey Family Law Practice, Hark and Hark.

In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division reviewed a trial court’s ruling regarding emancipation, child support refund, and money owed to other party after parties engaged in extensive litigation in years prior following the divorce.

In Daniels, Plaintiff Nancy Daniels and defendant Thomas Daniels were divorced in 2007 after a sixteen-year marriage and two children. Although they amicably resolved their divorce, entering into a forty-page marital settlement agreement (MSA), a separate custody and parenting time arrangement, and a supplemental agreement several months after the divorce, clarifying that defendant would be one hundred percent responsible for the children’s college expenses, after exhaustion of any trust funds, custodial accounts, scholarships, grants, and the like, both parties agreeing the children should not be required to obtain loans, their post judgment relations have been acrimonious, resulting in at least thirteen substantive orders, predating those on appeal, arising out of repeated disputes over compliance with the financial terms of the MSA.

In 2017, defendant filed a motion to emancipate the parties’ younger child and obtain reimbursement for child support he claimed he overpaid after their older child was emancipated. Plaintiff opposed that motion and filed her own motion in aid of litigant’s rights, seeking to compel defendant “to pay all amounts previously ordered by the court” and “the numerous amounts that he has contracted to pay or is otherwise obligated to pay,” and compelling defendant to provide the necessary authorizations “required to obtain any and all financial records over the last ten years for any and all financial accounts and/or services” he has held or utilized, along with over fifteen other specific requests for relief. The court granted defendant’s emancipation motion and ordered a plenary hearing to resolve the issue of child support and to “determine a final schedule of the amounts due and owing between the parties.”

After a seven day hearing, and in light of several post-judgment motions each of the parties had filed, the judge attempted to put an end to the litigation and issued a nearly 50 page opinion on each of the issues, outlining credibility and making his findings.  After doing several complex calculations the judge found defendant owed plaintiff $305,634.87, leaving $63,338.11 in total due after applying credits.  The judge found that defendant lacked credibility and was mostly the cause of the motions in the past, whereas plaintiff, while somewhat exaggerating reality, was mostly credible.

Both parties appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision, ruling that the order was sufficient enough to lack an oral opinion.

This case reiterates one of the most important factors in family court — credibility.  Your credibility in family court is usually vital to be successful in divorce, motions, plenary hearings, and custody disputes.  There are no juries in  family court, so the judge is the one that makes credibility findings.  If you are found to be not credible, not only will it affect the current matter but it could affect future matters as well, such as post-judgment motions for modifications and enforcements.  It is essential to hire an attorney from the beginning of your case to ensure that you come off as credible to the judge. Failing to do this from the start can have disastrous consequences.

At Hark & Hark, we help clients with domestic violence restraining orders, prenups, divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony issues and more.

In recognition of these trying financial times due to COVID-19, we are reducing fees and working with clients to come up with manageable payment plans. While we combat Coronavirus, we are offering special deals for first responders and individuals currently working in the medical field.  Initial consultation is always free and we are available remotely.

We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Borough of Clayton, Township of Deptford, East Greenwich Township, Township of Elk, Township of Franklin, Borough of Glassboro, Township of Greenwich, Township of Harrison, Township of Logan, Township of Mantua, Township of Monroe, Borough of National Park, Borough of Newfield, Borough of Paulsboro, Borough of Pitman, Township of South Harrison, Borough of Swedesboro, Township of Washington, Borough of Wenonah, Township of West Deptford, Borough of Westville, City of Woodbury, Borough of Woodbury Heights, and Township of Woolwich.

Stay safe.

Michael J. Collis, Esquire

Posted in

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

Leave a Comment