Avoiding Arrest on a Child Support Warrant Will Not Win You Favor With the Family Part Judge
There are right and wrong times to file an appeal of a palimony and custody default judgment, and while determining when that right time may be is challenging, it’s safe to say that doing so while you’re out of the country attempting to escape the jurisdiction of the court is the wrong time. A recent New Jersey Appellate Division ruling explained how the principle of fugitive disentitlement operates in the context of custody and support awards.
The case in question, Matison v. Lisnyansky, involved a cohabiting couple who had twin children together. Yvette Matison and Mark Lisnyansky had twins in 2004, and Yvette moved to the US with the children in 2006. Lisnyansky had previously purchased a home in which Matison and the children lived, while he lived in Europe for work and provided financial support for the family from abroad. By 2012, Lisnyansky stopped providing Matison and the children with support. Matison then turned to the Family Part to obtain a court order for child support, which she obtained in April of 2012, along with a warrant for his arrest to be outstanding until he met his support arrears. Once the bench warrant was issued, Lisnyansky left the country.
While Lisnyansky made repeated requests that a trial on the issues before the court be pushed forward, the trial was ultimately held in December of 2012. Lisnyansky didn’t appear, and had fired his attorney immediately before the trial. A default judgment was entered granting custody and palimony to Matison. One day before his time limit to appeal would have expired, Lisnyansky requested that the court vacate the default judgment. This request was denied. Lisnyansky appealed, but lost.
The Appellate Division explained that the “fugitive disentitlement doctrine bars a fugitive from seeking relief in the judicial system whose authority he or she evades.” Generally, parties to a case may only benefit from this doctrine where, if it were not applied, the fugitive would reap an unfair benefit from being a fugitive. In this case, were the rule not applied, Lisnyansky would still have custodial rights over his children, while benefitting from not paying for their care by virtue of being a fugitive. The doctrine isn’t intended as a punishment, so much as a last-resort way for a court to enforce its decision against someone who is hiding from the court. Lisnyansky argued that, since custodial decisions should be made based on the best interests of the child above all else, the rule shouldn’t be applied. However, the court pointed out that Lisnyansky had not offered a viable custody-sharing arrangement, since he did not intend to return to the US, and that the court would consider allowing visitation time should he do so.
If you are facing a court battle regarding custody of your children or another family court matter in New Jersey, contact the experienced Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation on your claims, at 908-964-0102.