Law School Case Brief
Philipp v. Stahl - 344 N.J. Super. 262, 781 A.2d 1065 (Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001)
N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:4-30.72(a) of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:4-30.65 to 2A:4-30.123, provides that, unless all parties agree otherwise, if a New Jersey court has issued a support order, then that court has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over a child support order so long as either the obligor or obligee under the order, or the child for whose benefit the support order is issued, continues to reside in New Jersey. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:4-30.72(b) of the UIFSA, however, provides that a New Jersey court which has issued a child support order may not exercise its continuing jurisdiction to modify the order if the order has been modified by a tribunal of another state pursuant to the UIFSA or a law substantially similar to the UIFSA. The same grant of "exclusive jurisdiction" and limitations upon such "exclusive jurisdiction," apply to Georgia as well as to New Jersey. Ga. Code Ann. § 19-11-114(a)-(d).
The parties in this Family Part case were married in 1975, divorced in Georgia on April 23, 1993. The plaintiff wife, Claire Philipp, filed an action against her ex-husband, Robert Stahl, to require him to contribute to their daughter's college expenses at Princeton and for additional miscellaneous relief. The trial court held that the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) placed "exclusive jurisdiction" in the courts of the state that had issued the original support order (Georgia), and thus this state had no jurisdiction to act.
Did the trial court have jurisdiction to deal with the issue of college expenses?
The appellate court found that a New Jersey court had issued a number of post-divorce orders which effectively modified the original Georgia child support order. Therefore, under the UIFSA, Georgia lost continuing, exclusive jurisdiction regarding support matters, and such jurisdiction vested in New Jersey, giving the New Jersey trial court subject matter jurisdiction over the college expenses issue. Further, contrary to the husband's claim, there were more than minimal contacts to provide a basis for New Jersey to exercise personal jurisdiction over the husband given the numerous post-divorce matters raised by both parties that the New Jersey courts had decided since the divorce. The trial court erred in refusing the wife's request for the husband's participation in paying for school books and supplies, as such costs should have been deemed part of the normal fees the husband had to pay along with the private tuition described in the divorce judgment.
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