Don't stick your head in the sand

It is sometimes said that ignorance is bliss. On occasion, it can be easier to stick our heads in the sand and ignore our surroundings rather than to acknowledge and face the inevitable. In the context of ignoring notices from the Court, this is not the best legal strategy.

In the recent unpublished Appellate Division decision, Muni v Muni, the Defendant learned this the hard way. In this matter, Plaintiff and Defendant were divorced in December 2012. Shortly after the parties’ divorce, they entered into a Consent Order, which called for Defendant to pay various expenses on behalf of the parties’ three children.

In December 2016, an Order was entered, which set forth Defendant’s arrears obligation and compelling Defendant to make payments to Plaintiff by certain dates.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a Notice of Motion to enforce the December 2016 Order. On February 22, 2017, two days before the motion was scheduled to be heard, Defendant wrote to the Court, indicating that he did not receive a copy of Plaintiff’s motion, which is required by Court Rules. However, Defendant acknowledged that he did receive a notice to appear in Court on Friday, February 24, 2017, but he presumed it was related to something else.

On February 25, 2017, the trial Court entered an Order in favor of Plaintiff, enforcing the December 2016 Order. In response to the service of process issue, the Court found that Plaintiff provided a certification of service and certified mail receipt with a tracking number, which proved she served Defendant at his residence. Defendant provided no reason why this information was inaccurate or unreliable. The trial Court made a specific finding regarding the issue of service, having considered and rejected the Defendant’s assertions.

The Appellate Division upheld the trial Court’s decision, emphasizing that Defendant clearly knew of the motion hearing by his own admission regarding the notice to appear. He provided no basis for his presumption that the notice was related to a different matter or issue, and therefore, the Court determined he was properly served.

The lesson to be learned here is that we should all open and read our mail on a regular basis, as nothing good comes from sticking our heads in the sand.

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