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Millionaire Pursues New Marital Tort: Alienation of
New Jersey Law Journal
November 6, 2007
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In a suit that could create a new marital tort in New
Jersey, a noncustodial father is suing his children's
mother for alienation of their affection for him,
which he says should allow him recovery of
There is no legal precedent in New Jersey for an
other, but New Jersey has allowed other interspousal
tort actions, such as for physical abuse, and
plaintiff's lawyer Steven Resnick says the facts of
his case warrant such treatment.
"We've tried other remedies and are asking to set a
precedent," says Resnick, a partner with Budd Larner
in Short Hills, N.J.
He says his client filed suit in the Law Division on
Oct. 26 because, after 14 months of litigation, he's
frustrated with the usual matrimonial venue, the
Chancery Division's Family Part.
"There's no serious mechanism for punishment in the
family court," says Resnick. "Nobody takes alienation
of a parent's affections seriously, and no one asks
what kind of damage this does to the children."
The suit, Segal v. Lynch, was lodged by
Toronto, who came to New Jersey in pursuit of his
girlfriend and common-law wife Cynthia Lynch, with
whom he separated in 2001.
The separation caused headlines in the Canadian press,
after the Ontario Court of Appeals awarded $8.3
million in property to Lynch, reportedly a small part
of Segal's $100 million empire. Altogether, Lynch got
$12 million, said Resnick.
Segal alleges that in June 2006, Lynch relocated to
New Jersey's Morris County, changed her phone number,
blocked e-mails and cut off all contact with their two
children, Emily, 13, and William, 9.
A private detective located Lynch in Millington, N.J.,
and Segal filed suit in Morris County to resume
visitation. Resnick says he also sought an enforcement
of litigants' rights order, because Lynch allegedly
twice attempted to change her child's last name from
Segal to Lynch.
But in the Law Division suit just filed, he says the
damage was done; that he no longer has the
relationship with his children he had previously. He
is suing for negligence and intentional infliction of
emotional distress and asks for compensatory and
Resnick and his associate, personal injury lawyer
Christopher Paldino, say the claim is structured along
the same lines as the tort claim for spousal abuse
coined in Tevis v. Tevis, 79 N.J. 42 (1979), where the
New Jersey Supreme Court allowed a wife to sue her
husband for physical beatings during the marriage.
But there is narrow precedent for recognizing
emotional distress in the Chancery Division. In
Ruprecht v. Ruprecht, 252 N.J. Super. 230 (Ch. Div.
1991), the court held that for emotional distress to
be actionable, the conduct must be outrageous and
"exceed all bounds usually tolerated by decent
In Brennan v. Orban, 145 N.J. 282 (1996), the New
Jersey Supreme Court held that the family court has
discretion to decide whether or not the victim of a
marital tort will receive a jury trial on her tort
claim that is joined with a divorce action.
What's more, a New Jersey court rule, R. 5:7-8,
requires the presiding Family Part judge's approval
for bifurcating a matrimonial case, though Resnick
says there is no need for approval because the tort
suit was filed in the Law Division.
Cary Cheifetz, a matrimonial attorney with Ceconi &
Cheifetz in Summit, N.J., says it's a mistake for the
courts to allow a matrimonial litigant to use a Law
Division suit to drive a wedge into a custody or
"The courts give deference to family judges," he says.
"It's a crazy idea to file suit in the Law Division,
because a Law Division judge doesn't have the
authority to resolve these conflicts."
But, says Resnick, "The alienation doesn't take the
form of custody rights or visitation rights; it's an
actual alienation of affection for children and
parents who experience psychological distress because
of this damaged relationship.
Lynch's lawyer, Lynn Newsome, says the lawsuit may be
novel but the motive isn't. "Segal is the most
litigious litigant I've ever dealt with," says
Newsome, of Donahue, Hagan, Klein, Newsome & O'Donnell
in Morristown. "This man has shown a lack of
cooperation and when a team of professionals came in
to work with them, including a court-appointed
unification expert, he instead files suit in another
New Jersey courts abolished alienation of affection as
a cause of action between spouses on June 27, 1935,
and other states have also abolished the action.
However, at least one court seems to have allowed a
claim like Segal's to go forward. In Raftery v. Scott,
756 F.2d 335 (4th Cir., 1985), a federal appeals court
applying Virginia law affirmed an award of $40,000 in
compensatory and $10,000 in punitive damages in an
emotional distress suit by a New York man who alleged
it took a year to find his child after his former wife
absconded to Virginia while the divorce decree was
pending. By the time he was able to see his child, the
ex-wife had allegedly turned the child against him, he
But a Wisconsin court went the other way in 1987,
refusing, in Gleiss v. Newman, 415 N.W.2d 845 (Wis.
Ct. App. 1987), to allow a noncustodial parent to sue
the custodial parent and his new wife for emotional
distress and alienation of affection.
Some think the case has merit. Solangel Maldonado, a
Seton Hall Law School professor, says her research for
a law review article disclosed that one-half to
one-third of residential custodians of children --
mostly women -- interfere with visitation.
"Even though the context of bringing a claim of a
parent alienated by a child is original here, claims
of problems with visitation or custodial rights are
not," Maldonado says. "This is a problem in New Jersey
and in other states and nations with high divorce
Mark Gruber, a Newton matrimonial attorney, says that
alienation of a parent can take the form of not
allowing the other parent access to medical or school
records; blaming the other parent for financial or
emotional woes; asking the child to select one parent
over another; not allowing telephone conversations
with a nonresidential parent; and changing last names.
"The legal precedent for bringing this type of action
is a long time coming," Gruber says of Segal's suit.
Sparta, N.J., divorce attorney Paris Eliades agrees.
"We've been grappling with the issue of parental
alienation in divorce litigation for years. There need
to be consequences,
Eliades Kovach & Ursin.
I was born & raised in Saint John New Brunswick Canada...I could not have asked for a better dad, I wouldn't want any other dad...When I was little I remember my mom telling me that I would want to play with her ornaments & dad would let me & I guess I use to break them accidentally of course...Mom would always tell me how he let me play with them & that I broke them...Her good expensive ornaments... Well in grade one is when things went bad for mom & dad, so dad moved out & no matter what mom said she couldn't make me turn against my dad so it has been 33 years since I was born so I sagest mom stop trying to turn me against my dad because it isn't going to happen...Don't get me wrong mom wasn't all bad there were some good memories but too few... With dad my brother & I came first & with mom well after dad left she went all wired...Instead of being a good mother & just dealing with the break up, getting over it & moving on she had only one thing one her mind & that was to turn my down syndrome brother & I against my dad...This will never work with me & she hates me for that because I will not believe & go along with her lies...Even though she has kidnapped my brothers mind she can not kid nap his heart... I do wish I could have a relationship with my mom but how can I when she lies not only about my dad but about me...Just because I wouldn't go along with her lies she decided to make up some lies about me...What type of mother does that...For the life of me I can not even begin to understand how a mother or parent can do that to a child... When I was a little girl & still even now all I wanted was for my mother to just be a mother...I am sorry that dad leaving you cause you such mental disorder that you can not seem to grasp or hold on to reality...But every thing that comes out of your mouth is hurtful lies & how could you expect me to just stand there & let you do it...You could of had my help now that you going through another separation but lying & manipulating are more important to you than your own children...I can see that in your youngest son you already are brain washing him...It is not right no matter how things ended...If you ever decide to get real help maybe then I will talk to you again but if not then I guess we had our last words already...
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
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