Postponing an Alimony Step-Down Long After Divorce in New Jersey

ringsYou may be bound to your Bergen County ex long after your divorce. Therefore, it is critical to pursue a workable result in connection with alimony and child support at the time of your divorce.

In the unpublished opinion of Corrello v. Corrello, a New Jersey court considered a post-judgment matrimonial case. The defendant challenged a family court order that recalculated his alimony and child support obligations and contested other provisions. The plaintiff also challenged the order at hand and earlier orders.

The couple had married in 1992 and had four children. The wife sued for divorce, and a 15-day trial was held in 2004, after which their divorce was entered. While married, the wife had worked as a financial analyst with a salary of about $33,000 per year. She stopped working when she had their first child, but she got a part-time job earning $4,330 per year in 2002, when she filed for divorce. At trial, the judge determined she was underemployed and could work for $50,000 per year. The defendant was a police officer and earned about $81,000 at the time of the couple’s divorce.

In their final divorce judgment, the judge ordered the defendant to pay his ex-wife $352 each week in permanent alimony until their twins reached 14 years old in 2012. At that time, the alimony would be reduced to $100 each week. Child support in the amount of $263 every week was also ordered, but this was amended to $307 per week.

The plaintiff worked in medical offices after the divorce but had to leave her job due to muscular dystrophy in 2012. She was determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration and was granted benefits of $1,295 each month, plus more for the children in Social Security Disability benefits.

While working, her ex-husband was hurt in a car accident and retired on a disability pension. His doctor testified at a deposition he could work with appropriate accommodations, but the defendant claimed he couldn’t work in any position.

The plaintiff moved to delay the alimony step-down that was to occur in 2012 because one twin had special needs. The defendant opposed the request and asked that his ex-wife be held in contempt because she’d used the oldest child’s Uniform Gift to Minors Account (UGMA) to buy the child a car. The trial judge granted the ex-wife’s motion and denied the ex-husband’s motion to hold her in contempt.

The defendant appealed, and the plaintiff cross-appealed. The defendant also asked the court to recalculate his child support and terminate alimony, based on changed circumstances. The trial judge denied the defendant’s motion to terminate alimony and ordered hearings on the other issues, including the plaintiff’s request for a constructive trust. Among other things, the judge denied the defendant’s motion to terminate alimony but reduced it to $100 per week. The court also recalculated the child support due to the plaintiff, based on her imputed income.

The appellate court concluded the defendant’s claims were without merit. It noted that the plaintiff had shown enough of a change in circumstances to support the decision to postpone the alimony step-down, based on her muscular dystrophy and the child’s special needs.

The appellate court found that there was no basis for contempt. The oldest child had wanted a car to get to work and college, and the mother had bought a car that would allow the child to save a lot of money. She emailed the defendant, who responded with questions and concerns that she answered. The defendant didn’t respond, so she withdrew money from the UGMA account set up by the defendant’s grandfather. Although she hadn’t gotten express written consent, she told the defendant, and because of the urgency of the situation, her actions were excusable. The court agreed that the income imputed to the plaintiff was incorrectly imputed, since she was not voluntarily underemployed but disabled.

Aside from the issue of imputed income, the orders of the lower court were affirmed.

If you are considering divorce in Bergen County, and you are concerned about alimony and child support, it is important to retain an experienced and aggressive child support attorney to seek an appropriate outcome. Contact the lawyers of Leopold Law at (201) 345-5907 or through our online form. We have attorneys available who can handle all aspects of a divorce.