Mandelbaum v. Mandelbaum, 080620 NJSUP, A-3390-18T4

Docket Nº:A-3390-18T4
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM
Party Name:DEBRA A. MANDELBAUM, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. MICHAEL J. MANDELBAUM, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Mark W. Rufolo argued the cause for appellant (Stern Kilcullen & Rufolo, LLC, and Donahue Hagan Klein & Weisberg, LLC, attorneys for appellant; Mark W. Rufolo and Stephanie Frangos Hagan, of counsel and on the briefs; Kaitlyn A. Lapi, on the briefs). Brian G. Paul argued the cause for respondent ...
Judge Panel:Before Judges Nugent, Suter and DeAlmeida.
Case Date:August 06, 2020
Court:Superior Court of New Jersey
 
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DEBRA A. MANDELBAUM, Plaintiff-Respondent,

v.

MICHAEL J. MANDELBAUM, Defendant-Appellant.

No. A-3390-18T4

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

August 6, 2020

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued January 23, 2020

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, Docket No. FM-18-0644-14.

Mark W. Rufolo argued the cause for appellant (Stern Kilcullen & Rufolo, LLC, and Donahue Hagan Klein & Weisberg, LLC, attorneys for appellant; Mark W. Rufolo and Stephanie Frangos Hagan, of counsel and on the briefs; Kaitlyn A. Lapi, on the briefs).

Brian G. Paul argued the cause for respondent (Szaferman Lakind Blumstein & Blader, PC, attorneys; Brian G. Paul, on the brief).

Before Judges Nugent, Suter and DeAlmeida.

PER CURIAM

Defendant Michael J. Mandelbaum appeals from a judgment of divorce, amended final judgment of divorce, and certain paragraphs of an order entered the same day as the amended final judgment of divorce. The question presented by this appeal is whether the parties were lawfully married. Their Jewish marriage certificate, the Ketubah, was duly signed by the friends who witnessed the ceremony and the Rabbi who performed it. The Certificate of Marriage was signed by two witnesses, by the Rabbi who performed the ceremony, and by local registrar, and is a filed public record in the New Jersey State Department of Health. For more than twenty years, defendant and plaintiff Debora A. Mandelbaum held themselves out to their friends and society as a married couple. They have filed tax returns as a married couple filing jointly, and they have owned property as tenants by the entireties.

In 2014, however, when plaintiff filed a complaint for divorce, defendant moved to dismiss it on the ground they had never been legally married. He contended, among other claims, the Rabbi who presided over the religious ceremony provided false information on the parties' Certificate of Marriage, the parties did not have a marriage license for the religious ceremony, and the marriage was absolutely void from its inception. Following a hearing, the trial court rejected defendant's claims and entered a judgment of divorce, which the court amended. We affirm.

The trial court conducted a hearing to determine the validity of the marriage. The chronology of material events is undisputed. The parties had neither applied for nor obtained a marriage license when Rabbi Arnold Gluck performed a religious wedding ceremony on December 5, 1993. Plaintiff, defendant, two witnesses, and the Rabbi signed a Ketubah, which Rabbi Gluck explained was a Jewish marriage certificate, "one of the three ways according to Jewish law that a couple becomes married." Rabbi Gluck admitted that by performing a ceremony without executing a civil license, he was "coloring outside the lines." He explained to the parties that it was inappropriate in the context of the "civil aspect" to complete the ceremony without a marriage license, and he instructed them to obtain one.

On December 10, 1993, five days after the ceremony, the parties met with the Bedminster Township clerk to obtain the marriage license. They designated the "Intended Date of Marriage" as December 5, 1993. Noting the inconsistency, the clerk told them there was a problem with the application, it was improper to have a ceremony without a marriage license, and that a second ceremony would be necessary.

Inexplicably, the clerk nonetheless issued the marriage license with the December 5, 1993 wedding date. She issued the license on December 21, 1993. It expired January 21, 1994.

Three months after issuing the license and two months after it expired, the clerk contacted the parties on March 21, 1994, regarding the status of the license because it had not been recorded. Acting on defendant's instructions, the clerk sent the license to Rabbi Gluck.

Within the next few days, defendant met with Rabbi Gluck and the witnesses who had signed the Ketubah. They signed the marriage certificate. Rabbi Gluck misstated as December 12, 1993, the date the religious ceremony had taken place-thus representing the ceremony had occurred one week after its actual date and nine days before the clerk issued the marriage license on December 21, 1993.

The Rabbi wrote to the municipal clerk on March 28, 1994, asked what had become of the marriage license, and noted perhaps she expected that someone would pick it up. He also wrote: "Most importantly, I hope that there will not be any difficulty in processing the license at this time. The wedding took place on Dec. 12 in Hillsborough, N.J. at Temple Beth-El. I officiated in accordance with Jewish tradition, and all is proper and in order in this regard."

On April 5, 1994, the municipal clerk forwarded the completed Certificate of...

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