On certification to the Superior Court, Chancery Division.
For reversal and remandment -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Pashman, Clifford, Schreiber, Handler, Pollock and O'Hern. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Pashman, J.
This is a companion case to Mahoney v. Mahoney, 91 N.J. 488, and Hill v. Hill, 91 N.J. 506, both decided today. The facts of this case are more complicated than those of Mahoney and Hill, and the need for legal redress for the less fortunate party in this case is more acute. However, the legal principles that must be used in resolving all three cases are the same. We reverse in part the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.
Plaintiff, Robert Lynn, and defendant, Bonnie Lynn, were pre-medical students at Rutgers University when they met in 1967. The plaintiff began his medical education at Rutgers Medical School in September 1970 and the parties were married the following June.
During the first three years of their marriage, the defendant worked fulltime at American Cyanamid, rising from the position
of literature biologist to that of senior market research analyst. Her annual income rose from about $11,000 to $15,000, which she used to support the household. The plaintiff made substantially lower contributions to the household during this time and for two years earned no income. The defendant provided for household expenses with the expectation that her husband's schooling would result in material benefits for both spouses. He was a full-time medical student spending two years at Rutgers and two years at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. The plaintiff was graduated from medical school in May 1974.
Beginning some time before the marriage, doctors noticed that the defendant was suffering from bilateral hearing loss. In 1974 attacks of vertigo and nausea began to accompany this steady hearing loss, and by 1976 the defendant had to wear hearing aids in both ears. The parties also had some marital problems during this time, apparently caused in large part by the plaintiff's long hours away from home. Nonetheless, the couple lived together on a rather comfortable scale, frequently dining out and vacationing together throughout the time of their marriage until the plaintiff left the marital home in June 1976.
The plaintiff filed a first complaint for divorce in January 1978. The defendant filed an answer and counterclaim for divorce requesting alimony and equitable distribution of property. Each party alleged that the other was guilty of extreme cruelty.
In February 1979, the plaintiff filed a second action for divorce in Connecticut. This complaint sought a divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and adultery. The complaint also sought equitable distribution of property under Connecticut law.
In March 1979, the Chancery Division temporarily enjoined the plaintiff from proceeding with the Connecticut action. In April 1979, the Superior Court of ...