Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Does a New Jersey Divorce Court Require “Certified” Documents?

As an experienced attorney, I embrace that a majority of the time that if I want documents to be considered by the court they are to be certified. Getting a document certified increases the credibility of its contents and verifies to the court that the statements therein are true and accurate. Moreover, certification can play a major role as to whether the documents may be admitted into evidence.

In order to get a document certified, an authorized person must read the document in its entirety and then sign off on it once he or she feels it is accurate. Typically, the people who can certify a document include, but are not limited to, a manager of a bank, a barrister, a member of the police force, an attorney, or a registrar of the court. Although it is always best to have documents certified, failure to do so will not always harm your case. That was illustrated in the recent New Jersey Appellate Division case of Silver v. Silver.

In this case, the parties were married in June 1994. Two children were born of the marriage. In November 2006, the parties sought dissolution of the marriage. Their judgment of divorce incorporated a property settlement agreement, which provided for the husband to pay his ex-wife limited duration alimony of $175,000 per year for ten years. The settlement agreement also required the husband to pay child support in the amount of $4167 per month until the children were emancipated. Additionally, the father agreed to pay $75,000 in alimony upfront to his ex conditioned upon her repaying him back $1250 per month for 60 months.

As the years passed, the parties engaged in a variety of litigation particularly including the husband’s financial obligations to his ex-wife. In February 2008, the trial court reduced his alimony obligation to $4166 per month and child support to $1849 per month. In a later decision, however, the child support reduction was reversed. In January 2009, the trial court reevaluated the husband’s child support obligations and determined that he should pay $1320 per month. Yet again, one month later that amount was modified to $280 per week. The father did not stop there though. Although he was denied a further reduction in his alimony obligations, the court granted him a credit of $357 per month retroactive to December 2007 as repayment for the advancement he had given his ex-wife.

In September 2009, the court determined that the father’s alimony and child support arrears equaled $103,196.65. Additionally, the court found that the wife still owed her ex-husband $58,396 for her alimony advance. As of June 2013, the father managed to get his arrears down to $76,838.31. Also in June, the wife filed a motion in the Family Part, Superior Court of New Jersey seeking to do the following: 

1.     Correct the September 2009 order that determined her ex-husband’s arrears to be $103,196.65 by adding an additional $49,051.11;

2.     Modify the September 2009 to add money for child care and attorney’s fees, both of which her ex-husband would be responsible for;

3.     Require her ex-husband to repay in full what he had withdrawn from his children’s college savings accounts;

4.     Modify her ex-husbands child support and alimony obligations to reflect his current income;

5.     Require her ex-husband to give copies of tax returns from 2007;

6.     Require her ex-husband to reimburse her for a portion of outstanding unreimbursed or un-reimbursable medical bills;

7.     Require her ex-husband to contribute to the children’s extracurricular activities on a monthly basis;

8.     Retroactively increase her ex-husband’s child support obligations as of August 2007;

9.     Defer repayment of $46,565 in prepaid alimony until after her ex-husband had fulfilled his financials obligations to her;

10.  Require her ex-husband to provide proof of life insurance;

11.  Allow her to get passports for the children without her ex-husband’s consent/signature;

12.  Grant her exclusive custody [legal and physical];

13.  Bar her ex-husband from getting a passport of his own until he paid all of his child support arrears;

14.  Require her ex-husband to post a bond for $1,000,000 to secure compliance with the terms of the final judgment of divorce;

15.  Award her counsel fees.

After considering the wife’s extensive motion, the court granted her some relief, but denied a lot of what she had asked for as well. In particular, the court denied her motion to bar her ex-husband from getting a passport of his own until he paid all of his child support arrears. She appealed.

On appeal, the wife argued that not only did her ex-husband present a flight risk, but he also had submitted uncertified papers to the court explaining his necessity to travel. Although the Appellate Division did note that the husband submitted an uncertified letter from his employer explaining why he was required to travel oversees for his job, it still affirmed the findings of the lower court. The Appellate Division held that while the court could not consider the letter from the husband’s lawyer since it was not certified, the wife’s claim was meritless. Additionally, she provided insufficient proof as to why she believed her ex-husband would be a flight risk in the first place. 

Although having the letter from his employer certified would have strengthened the husband’s argument, he ultimately succeeded anyways because his wife had brought a meritless claim. Had her claim been supported by evidence, however, the husband might have lost on this point all because he did not take the time to have his letter certified. For more information on certification of documents, please feel free to contact my office today.