Thursday, September 24, 2015

Equitable Distribution Award Survives Challenge

In DeLong v. DeLong, the Plaintiff appealed from a final divorce judgment entered in 2014 awarding alimony, equitable distribution, and counsel fees. The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the Family Court. The parties in this case were married for thirty-three (33) years. They owned a home together. In 1996, they sold the home when the Plaintiff's mother conveyed her house to them for one (1) dollar, making them joint tenants with a right of survivorship. The Plaintiff's mother received $500 per month which was characterized by the Plaintiff as rent. In 2008, the parties separated and the Plaintiff conveyed the house back to his mother for one (1) dollar. In 2009, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint for divorce which was voluntarily dismissed when the parties attempted to reconcile. In 2013, the Plaintiff once again filed for divorce and the Defendant filed an Answer and a Counterclaim for alimony and equitable distribution. In 2014, the court conducted a trial and heard testimony from the Plaintiff and Defendant about their marital history, work history, and assets acquired during their marriage. The judge decided that the Defendant was entitled to permanent alimony in the amount of $275 a week, $17,688 in equitable distribution representing the return of proceeds from the sale of their home in 1996, 50% of the marital portion of the Plaintiff's retirement funds, and ordered the Plaintiff to pay the Defendant's counsel fees. The Plaintiff appealed challenging the court's award of permanent alimony, equitable distribution, and attorney's fees. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the lower court for all the reasons contained in the Family Court's judgment, but added commentary regarding the Plaintiff's challenge to the equitable distribution award. According to the Appellate Division, property subject to equitable distribution includes property that was obtained during the marriage due to efforts by either spouse. Pascale v. Pascale, 140 N.J. 583, 609, 660 A.2d 485 (1995). "Although the trial court is permitted to recognize that the acquisition of certain property may be traced more directly to one partner than the other, the court is not compelled to distribute property to accommodate that origin." Id. at 638. The Appellate Court noted that in this case, the Family Court judge appropriately weighed the financial contributions of both parties as well as the benefits received by each, including improvements to the martial home. If you believe that a post-judgment modification to the equitable distribution of your property may be beneficial to you it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about post-judgment modification, equitable distribution, alimony, divorce or other family law matters in New Jersey visit the This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney

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