Divorce is hard and is, by definition, a break of a marital relationship. Sometimes, one broken the parties can maintain a civil and working relationship. As the case summary below indicates, establishing a functioning co-parenting relationship is critical and failing to do so can have devastating consequences.
APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION
Freedman v. Freedman, Appellate Division, Judge Geiger. Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s orders regarding the disposition of the parties’ adult son’s remains and personal property. The parties’ son died unexpectedly at age 20 while attending college in Colorado. Defendant unilaterally decided to have her son cremated without informing plaintiff that he had died, preventing him from participating in decisions regarding the disposition of the body or from attending the memorial service. Defendant further refused to divide the parties’ son’s personal effects. The parties filed contesting petitions to resolve their dispute over their son’s remains and property and to terminate child support. The trial court entered orders scheduling a plenary hearing and ultimately ruling that the disposition of the parties’ son’s remains and effects should be decided by defendant because she had a closer relationship. Plaintiff appealed those orders, while defendant cross-appealed certain aspects of the order scheduling a plenary hearing. On appeal, the court affirmed. The court noted that plaintiff had substantial opportunities to litigate defendant’s alleged alienation of their son’s affection and interference with plaintiff’s parenting time and communication with his son during his son’s minority. Because plaintiff waited until after his son’s death and the dispute over the disposition of his remains and personal effects to raise allegations regarding defendant’s interference in plaintiff’s relationship with his son, the court deemed those issues waived. The court further held that a plenary hearing was not required as the trial court was presented with overwhelming evidence that defendant had a closer relationship with the parties’ son. The court adopted a procedure for trial courts to follow to resolve parental disputes over the disposition of their deceased children’s remains. (Approved for Publication)