Fox Rothschild LLP

In 1988, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a surrogacy contract was invalid based upon the circumstances of that case.  The Court found that such agreements are in direct conflict with existing statutes and in conflict with New Jersey public policy.  In the Baby M case, would-be parents entered into a contract with a women who agreed to supply the egg for in vitro fertilization, to implantation of the embryo and to carry the fetus to birth at which point the would-be parents would adopt the baby.  However, the surrogate mother changed her mind after the birth of the child and would not agree to the adoption.   The Baby M decision made it clear that New Jersey courts disfavor surrogacy agreements especially those involving monetary exchange. 

The Baby M case involved a surrogacy agreement by a surrogate who was also the biological donor of the egg.  Since the 1988 Baby M decision, the question of whether or not surrogacy agreements are invalid regardless of whether or not the surrogate mother has biological relations to the child has never been answered.  However, recently, on December 23, 2009, a trial Court in Hudson County entered a decision in the A.G.R. v. D.R.H. and S.H. case finding that surrogacy agreements in New Jersey are invalid regardless of the biological relationship of the surrogate mother.Continue Reading Baby M Decision and Validity of Surrogacy Contracts Revisited

Under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, a “victim” of domestic violence is entitled to entry of a Final Restraining Order. N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29. The Act defines “victim of domestic violence” as including “any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship”. However, what is the definition of “dating relationship” and does a “dating relationship” exist if the relationship is formed by the exchange of monetary benefits? 

In the recently published decision of J.S. v. J.F. (App.Div. December 10, 2009), while the Appellate Division found that a “dating relationship” existed based upon the factual circumstances of the case, the Appellate Division did discuss the definition of a “dating relationship” and the impact on a Domestic Violence Complaint, or lack thereof, of a monetary benefit received as a result of a relationship.


Defendant in the J.S. matter argued that the Plaintiff did not qualify as a victim of domestic violence because Defendant paid for Plaintiff’s company. Defendant asserted that his relationship with Plaintiff, who worked as a dancer at a local club, was “professional” and that he paid Plaintiff to be his escort. Plaintiff asserted that she had a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with Defendant, that she had been to his home, met his parents, and spent time together including weekends.   During trial, Plaintiff presented text messages from Defendant threatening her and her boyfriend and disparaging her.Continue Reading A Paid Escort May be Qualified to Obtain a New Jersey Final Restraining Order Against the Payor

After serving almost three years in jail for failing to comply with a Family Judge’s Court Order, a Bergen County, New Jersey jury found Maria Jose Carrascosa guilty of eight counts of interference with custody and one count of contempt of Court. The guilty verdict could result in another ten years of jail time for Carrascosa.

In early 1999, Carrascosa married Peter Inness in her native country of Spain. Carrascosa had resided and worked in the United States since 1992. Inness was an American citizen. After their marriage, they returned to the United States and resided in North Jersey. On April 17, 2000, the parties’ daughter, Victoria, was born. 


By early 2004, the parties had separated and shortly thereafter, Carrascosa filed for a religious annulment with the Ecclesiastic Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Valencia Spain. 


In October 2004, the parties entered into a written agreement, through counsel, indicating that Inness would have parenting time with Victoria and prohibiting Victoria’s removal from the country. 


In December 2004, Inness filed a divorce complaint in the State of New Jersey seeking among other things, custody of Victoria. The Complaint was served upon Carrascosa in early January 2005 and within seven days of being served, Carrascosa left for Spain with Victoria snowballing into two years of litigation in the New Jersey Family Court, New Jersey Appellate Division, Spain and the Appeals Courts of Spain.


In the New Jersey Family Court proceedings, Carrascosa was ordered on a number of occasions to return Victoria to New Jersey and at no point did she comply. Carrascosa argued that New Jersey did not have jurisdiction to handle the matter and that pursuant to an Order of the Court in Spain, Victoria was prohibited from leaving Spain until her eighteenth birthday. However, the New Jersey Court and the New Jersey Appellate Division rejected Carrascosa’s arguments.  After a trial, the New Jersey Court entered one last Order requiring return of Victoria to New Jersey and granted Inness sole and residential custody of Victoria. Carrascosa appealed the Order but the Appellate Division affirmed the rulings of the Trial Court. The Order further directed that should Carrascosa fail to comply with the Order, she would be incarcerated until such time as compliance was met. Victoria was not returned to New Jersey and Carrascosa was arrested on November 13, 2006 pursuant to the Family Court Order.Continue Reading Jail Time for Mom found Guilty in Criminal Intereference with Custody Case

At the time of a break-up of a relationship, clearly emotions are high, it is contentious and people often do or say things that they normally would not. Unfortunately, during this time period where many feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster, the tension escalates to the point where one party has filed a Complaint for Domestic Violence as a result of the actions and/or comments of the other party and the Court enters a Final Restraining Order. Once the emotional roller coaster ride stops, does the defendant have the ability to ask that the Restraining Order be dismissed? The answer is yes but the more important inquiry is whether or not such request will be granted. 

In New Jersey, either party to a Domestic Violence Restraining Order may request dismissal of the Restraining Order by way of Motion filed with the Court. The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act states that “Upon good cause shown, any final restraining order may be dissolved or modified upon application to the Family Part…” N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29d. In other words, simply asking for a dismissal– even if you are the plaintiff or the victim– does not automatically warrant a dismissal of the Restraining Order. 


If the Defendant files the Motion to dismiss the Restraining Order, there are eleven factors for the Court to consider when determining whether or not “good cause” exists to dismiss a Restraining Order: the victim’s consent; current relationship of the parties; number of contempt convictions; use of drugs or alcohol; whether defendant is violent with others; whether the aggressor attends counseling; age and health of the aggressor; whether the victim is acting in “good faith” when opposing the dismissal; whether there are any other domestic violence restraining orders between the parties in other jurisdictions; and any other relevant considerations relevant to dismissal of the Restraining Order.


If the Plaintiff is the party making a request for dismissal, before any dismissal is entered, the Court must discern whether the plaintiff is seeking the dismissal voluntarily, without coercion or duress; if the plaintiff understands the cycle of violence that occurs in the domestic violence setting; and if the plaintiff understands the loss of protection if the Restraining Order is dismissed.

Notably, regardless of whether or not Plaintiff consents to, wants to have and does have communication with a defendant to a Restraining order, unless the Court has dismissed the Restraining Order, it remains in full force and effect.Continue Reading Can A Domestic Violence Restraining Order Be Dismissed?

At the time of divorce proceedings, many of my clients ask if they can “lock” the other party to whatever support amount is rendered. If the person asking is going to be paying support, they are asking because they do not want to have to pay more in the future. If the person asking is going to be receiving the support, they are asking because they intend to rely upon the amount indefinitely. My response in most circumstances is that it can be done but it should only be done with great caution and only done by way of agreement. For example, while a litigant’s intent may be to “lock” the support amount because they are anticipating earning more in the future and do not wish to pay more in the future, once locked and the litigant is faced with unanticipated detrimental financial circumstances, they may be unable to obtain a decrease of their support obligation. In other words, it goes both ways – being bound to a specific number regardless of changed circumstances can be very beneficial in some circumstances and in other circumstances very disastrous.

N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 recognizes the equitable power of the Courts of the State of New Jersey to modify alimony and support orders at any time. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 states:


Pending any matrimonial action brought in this State or elsewhere, or after judgment of divorce or maintenance, whether obtained in this State or elsewhere, the Court may make such order as to the alimony or maintenance of the parties . . . as the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case shall render fit, reasonable and just, and require reasonable security for the due observance of such orders. . . . Orders so made may be revised and altered by the court from time to time as circumstances may require. 


Based upon the mandates of the statute, “alimony and support orders define only the present obligations of the former spouses.” Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 146 (1980). Alimony and support obligations are always subject to judicial review and modification upon a showing of a change in circumstances. Id.    A type of “‘changed circumstance” that warrants modification of a support order is an increase or decrease in the supporting spouse’s income.” Innes v. Innes, 117 N.J. 496, 504 (1990). However, what happens when the parties agree at the time of the divorce that the support provisions cannot be modified?


The Appellate Division decision discussed whether or not a non-modifiable clause (also called an “anti-Lepis” clause) is enforceable in the decision of Morris v. Morris, 263 N.J. Super. 237 (App.Div. 1993). The Morris Court did find that an anti-Lepis clause could be found unenforceable in some circumstances, although the particular anti-Lepis clause in Morriswas upheld. In Morris, the defendant husband sought a reduction in alimony payments despite an anti-Lepis clause in the alimony agreement stating that the agreement was not modifiable for any reason except for the husband’s physical disability. The husband based his request for reduction on a claim that the his annual income was $49,000 while his annual alimony payment was $35,000. The wife argued that husband kept all of the assets pursuant to the parties agreement and in exchanged for non-modifiable alimony, she agreed to a support amount of much less than the amount needed to sustain the marital standard of living. In holding that the husband was not entitled to a reduction in alimony payments, the court addressed a conflict between two chancery court decisions. In Smith v. Smith, 261 N.J. Super. 198, 199-200 (Ch. Div. 1992), the court determined that “an ‘anti- Lepis’ clause, which seeks to preclude the exercise of [the] Court’s equitable responsibility to review and, if warranted, to modify support obligations in response to changed circumstances, is contrary to the public policy of this State as reflected in its Legislative Acts and its judicial decisions.” In Finckin v. Finckin, 240 N.J. Super. 204, 206 (Ch. Div. 1990), the court concluded that public policy did not prohibit the use of an anti- Lepis clause.
 Continue Reading The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Locking in Support Obligations