Clark W. Griswold Would Be Proud: Citing Importance Of Summer Vacations, Family Part Permits Parent To Take Child Abroad

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)

I loved the movie National Lampoon's Vacation as a kid but I did not truly appreciate it until I had children of my own and experienced family vacations from the parent perspective. This perspective may have been most eloquently summarized by Clark W. Griswold when he finally snaps near the end of his family's journey to Wally World:

I think you're all [expletive deleted] in the head. We're ten hours from the [expletive deleted] fun park and you want to bail out. Well I'll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun. You're gonna have fun, and I'm gonna have fun . . . We're all gonna have so much [expletive deleted] fun we're gonna need plastic surgery to remove our [expletive deleted] smiles! You'll be whistling 'Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah' out of your [expletive deleted]! I must be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy [expletive deleted]!

[For a similar take on family vacations, you can also check out Louis CK who describes his personal "vacation" as the few seconds he gets between closing the door on one side of the car and walking around to the driver's side before getting in and starting the real "vacation."]

I was reminded of these, admittedly cynical, impressions of family vacations when I read a recent decision, Lang v. Lang, from the Family Part. In that case, divorced parents fought over whether the mother could take their six-year-old son to Holland for the summer. Sprinkled throughout the court's opinion were descriptions of the importance of family vacations, including the following:

Vacations provide highly unique and valuable opportunities for a child to bond with parents and other family members, while creating highly positive and lasting  memories. The entire point of vacation travel is for adults and children alike to enjoy a invigorating break from the tedium of everyday schedules and responsibilities, and to mentally relax and rejuvenate by journeying to new  destinations, experiencing new sights and adventures, and simply enjoying themselves in as carefree a manner as possible.

The court obviously has fonder memories of family vacations than I do. I remember turning blue while driving through the safari at Six Flags in a Dodge Dart with the windows closed and no air conditioning. Nothing too invigorating about that.

 

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“Send me dead flowers to my wedding, and I won’t forget to put roses on your grave”

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)

I don't handle any family law cases, mostly because I do not think I could deal with the emotional issues that are often involved in them. But every now and again a family law decision piques my interest. The recent unpublished Appellate Division decision in Taffaro v. Taffaro was one of those cases. In that case, plaintiff was estranged from his half-sister after a dispute over their mother's estate. After the dispute, he began "attaching paper items" to her gravestone, "frequently directed at [his half sister] and referencing the dispute." When some of these items were removed, plaintiff assumed his half-sister did it, so he pursued criminal charges against her and, when these proved unsuccessful, sued her for conversion, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The court dismissed the invasion of privacy and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress counts on statute of limitations grounds. Even assuming that defendant took the items from the gravestone, which there was no evidence to support, they were taken more than two years before plaintiff sued and plaintiff's claims were thus untimely. The trial court then held a bench trial on the conversion claim and eventually dismissed it as well, holding that plaintiff had abandoned the items. Plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed. It held that conversion is the "unauthorized assumption and exercise of the right of ownership over goods or personal chattels belonging to another . . . ." But, abandonment, which is the relinquishment of "all right, title, claim and possession" of property "with the intention of not reclaiming it," is a complete defense to conversion. In Taffaro, the Appellate Division held that the "necessary overt act" demonstrating abandonment occurred when plaintiff placed the items at his mother's grave. The Appellate Division held that the "ephemeral nature of the cards and decorative items, which were made of paper and left outside" demonstrated plaintiff's "intent to abandon." And, the Appellate Division noted that the purpose of the items was to harass defendant, not honor the memory of plaintiff's mother. Therefore, for all of these reasons, the court held that plaintiff had abandoned the items and could not maintain a cause of action for conversion.

[Fun little fact about the title of this post, which obviously is a portion of the lyrics from one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs, "Dead Flowers." My friend and I went to see Steve Earle at Tradewinds in 1998 when he was touring in support of his El Corazon album. Great show. But then, for the encore, he came walking out with Bruce Springsteen. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my friend and I went to the show mostly because we were big Steve Earle fans, but partly because of the chance that Bruce might show up. Lucky for us, he did, and they played a couple of Stones songs, including Dead Flowers. They also played Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby" for Carl Perkins who had died a few days before the show. Anyway, click here for the full audio from the encore.]

Are You A Bad Parent If You Take Your Child To A Pink Concert?

 by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)

This was, literally, the question before a Law Division judge in Zoe v. Zoe. In that case, the parents of an eleven-year-old girl were in the midst of ongoing litigation over physical custody of their child when the mother took her daughter to a Pink concert at the Prudential Center. The father claimed that the mother abused her parental discretion by doing so because the concert was not age appropriate. Specifically, the father claimed that there was profanity in some of Pink’s songs and that the concert included sexually suggestive themes and dance performances. He claimed that if he had been at the concert with his daughter, he would have walked her out rather than let her stay.

The court rejected the father’s claims and held instead that: (1) after divorce, each parent has a right to exercise reasonable parental discretion over a child’s activities; (2) after divorce, each parent has a constitutional right to exercise reasonable parental discretion in introducing and exposing their child to the creative arts; (3) the court will generally not interfere with decisions made by parents that are consistent with these rights; and (4) the decision by the mother in Zoe was a reasonable and appropriate exercise of her rights.

 

 

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