One of the hardest questions to answer for a client is why a Court doesn’t enforce their own Orders.  The next hardest questions to answer are if they found the other side in violation of litigant’s rights, (1) why weren’t there any real consequences for the violation of the order and (2) why didn’t I get counsel fees.  The Court Rules suggest that a litigant is entitled to counsel fees if they are required to come to court to enforce an Order.  In addition, the court rules in the family part also include numerous provisions, including the imposition of monetary sanctions and counsel fees, for violation of a parenting time (visitation) Order. 

As such, it was interesting to see the unreported decision in the case of Friedman v. Friedman decided on March 7, 2011 wherein an awarded of sanctions for violating a parenting time order was affirmed by the Appellate Division.  In this case, the father asserted that the mother violated the parties’ parenting schedule when she "signed both children out of school and drove them to [Virginia]." As a result, the father sought sanctions against the mother "for making unilateral changes" to the parenting schedule "and for failing to cooperate with the recommendations of the Parenting coordinator."  The trial judge found that  the mother violated the parties’ parenting schedule and the recommendations of the parent coordinator by extending "the children’s time with her, in Virginia."  As a result, the mother was ordered ordered to pay the father $500.00 as a sanction plus reimburse him for his costs to file and serve the motion.  The decision was based upon the court’s finding that the mother had a history of failing to cooperate with the plaintiff.  In addition, the mother’s request to relieve the current parent coordinator was denied.Continue Reading Sanctions Actually Granted for Interference with Parenting Time

Many divorces involve distribution of assets, including pensions.  To protect the non-titled party entitled to receive a share of the asset, i.e. pension, the court may mandate or the parties will negotiate security to ensure receipt of the value of the asset.  In a recent unpublished post judgment Appellate Division decision, Brown v. Brown, decided January 3, 2011, the court awarded the plaintiff-wife attorneys fees for enforcing defendant-husband’s obligation under the Judgment of Divorce to obtain a life insurance policy that guarantees the wife’s interest in defendant’s pension payments.  But the Appellate court refused to uphold the trial court’s Order, which imposed monetary sanctions against the husband for failing to obtain the requisite life insurance policy.

Defendant-husband was required to obtain a life insurance policy and to select a payout option where the wife would receive monthly income if the husband were to predecease the wife.  However, the husband failed to obtain the requisite life insurance and attempted to select the pension benefit that would maximize his income during retirement but would preclude the wife from receiving any income should he predecease her.  Only through the diligence of the wife was it discovered that husband had attempted to select the incorrect payout option.  As a result, the wife filed two motions seeking to enforce her rights under the Judgment of Divorce.Continue Reading What Happens When an Order Is Violated? Can a Court Impose Sanctions?

Previously I have blogged on both the issue of sanctions assessed by a court against one party in a divorce or post divorce matter and also the obligation to contribute to the costs of a college education for a child and to what extent.

These issues are often addressed to the Appellate Court of New Jersey as in many family law matters they are topics hot for debate.  Most recently, the Appellate Division in the unpublished decision of Hikes v. Hikes, Decided August 13, 2009, Docket No. A-6642-06T2 addressed both the issue of sanctions and the payment of college for a child.

Sanctions may be requested by a party or  granted by a court on its own in a situation where one party acts in extreme bad faith or is non-compliant.  Sanctions can be viewed as a sort of punishment for that extreme bad faith or non-compliance.  This is especially so when the other party acts in good faith and is complaint.Continue Reading Who Pays for What? Santions and the Obligation to Contribute to College