Sunday, December 14, 2014
Court Denies Woman's Request To Reduce Alimony Obligation
In the recent Appellate Division case out of Essex County, Clark v. Pomponio, Bonnie Clark, Plaintiff, appealed from a 2013 post-judgment modification Court Order that denied her Cross Motion for a reduction in her alimony obligation owed to Defendant, Anthony Pomponio. The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the lower court. The parties in this case were married in 1982 and only one child was born of the marriage. For the majority of the marriage the parties owned and operated North Jersey Diamond Wheel (NJDW). The Plaintiff filed for divorce in 2001 and the Defendant filed an Answer and Counterclaim in 2002. During the divorce proceedings the Defendant filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. During his automatic bankruptcy stay under 11 U.S.C.A. 362(a) the trial court dismissed the Defendant's Answer for failure to provide discovery. After the stay was lifted the trial court entered a default judgment in 2004. In 2005, the court issued a judgment of divorce (JOD), which distributed the marital assets, set forth the Plaintiff's waiver of alimony, and awarded counsel fees to the Plaintiff. The Defendant appealed, arguing that his right to present an affirmative defense was denied because his Answer was improperly dismissed. In 2008, the Appellate Court reversed portions of the default judgment that pertained to equitable distribution, counsel fees, and alimony. After a trial was conducted on the issues, the Family Court judge rendered a decision in 2011 memorializing ownership of NJDW to the Plaintiff and required her to pay Defendant permanent alimony in the amount of $35,000 per year which was later reduced to $20,000 a year in 2012. In 2013, the Plaintiff submitted an application to reduce her alimony based upon a change in circumstances with regard to the finances of NJDW. The judge denied the Plaintiff's Motion for an alimony reduction because her Motion failed to attach all prior Case Information Statements (CIS) according to New Jersey Court Rule 5:5-4(a), as well as a lack of a prima facie showing of a change in circumstances. Larbig v. Larbig, 384 N.J. Super. 17, 23 (App. Div. 2006). The Plaintiff appealed. The Appellate Division ruled that post-judgment Motions involving disputes concerning support obligations must be accompanied by both prior and current CISs according to N.J.C.R. 5:5-4(a). The rule is mandatory and not permissive. The CISs provide a way for the trial judge to get a complete picture of the finances of the movants in a modification case. Guyla v. Gulya, 251 N.J. Super. 250, 253 (App. Div. 1991) . Further, alimony awards may be modified according to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 and the "party seeking modification has the burden of demonstrating a change in circumstances warranting relief from the support or maintenance obligations." Innes v. Innes, 117, N.J. 496, 504 (1990). In this case, the Plaintiff was unable to show that the reduction in her income was not merely temporary and therefore her Motion was properly denied. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your alimony obligation it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about alimony, post-judgment modification , equitable distribution, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlinglawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.