Maryland Has Divorce Jurisdiction, Despite Wife’s Claim that She Lives in New Jersey

Jan 25, 2016

A woman filed for divorce in New Jersey in July of 2012.  The trial court dismissed her complaint because she was not a bona fide residence of New Jersey for one year before she filed her complaint and alternatively on forum non conveniens grounds – meaning that a different jurisdiction is better suited to hear the case.  Noting that the couple and their child resided in Maryland, the court said that Maryland therefore has jurisdiction over the couple’s divorce.  The divorce complaint in Appelbaum v. Huff had to be filed in Maryland. 

The parties got married in New Jersey in 2007 and had a child in 2008.  The couple moved to Silver Spring, Maryland,  in 2007 for the husband to pursue a job opportunity.  The wife enrolled in graduate school at Georgetown University.  After graduating in 2009, she took a full-time job in Washington, D.C. 

Claiming that the marriage began to crumble in 2010 and that her husband rarely slept at home, the wife filed for divorce in 2012 in Middlesex County, New Jersey, citing extreme cruelty as her reason.  She stated that she was a bona fide resident of New Jersey for one year preceding the filing of her divorce complaint, as required for New Jersey to have jurisdiction.  She used her parents’ Edison home as her address. 

The husband contested the wife’s choice of jurisdiction, submitting several pieces of evidence of her residence in Maryland.  He provided a letter from their apartment complex in Maryland from September 2012 and copies of checks from the wife’s bank account to the apartment complex as recent as July 2012 to show that she still lived there.  The husband also presented an email sent from the wife’s work email address from July 2012.  He alleged that the wife’s time in New Jersey was limited to visits with her parents.  He showed that their child attended preschool in Maryland as recently as July 2012. 

Hoping to beat him to the punch, the husband said, the wife filed for divorce in New Jersey before the husband could file in Maryland.  Both the parties and their child were Maryland residents.  The judge agreed with the husband, finding that the wife had not truly been a bona fide resident of New Jersey for the twelve months immediately preceding her filing. 

Additionally, custody proceedings were required to take place in Maryland, as per s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), as Maryland was the “home state” of the child. 

The wife appealed the lower court’s decision to give Maryland jurisdiction.  She argued that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to her state of residence.  Allegedly, she lived in New Jersey, but commuted to her job in D.C., staying overnight in the husband’s apartment and sending her child to daycare in Maryland.  Further, she said the judge considered evidence that was not legally competent.  Finally, she asserted that the husband waived jurisdiction when he appeared in New Jersey court. 

To the wife’s chagrin, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s decision.  It found that the trial judge’s ruling was consistent with the record.  The wife had not been a bona fide New Jersey resident.  The appellate court rejected all three of the wife’s arguments.  It noted that she truly resided in Maryland, and New Jersey would be an inconvenient forum for both divorce and custody proceedings. 

If you are pursuing a divorce or have an issue with child custody or relocation, contact the skilled attorneys at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC.  The lawyers at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC are experienced in handling cases in which the parties share children.  Call us today at (973) 274-5200.