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Reiss v. Reiss

Decided: October 17, 1985.

RONALD A. REISS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SHERRY A. REISS, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT. RONALD A. REISS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, V. SHERRY A. BROSNAHAN, FORMERLY KNOWN AS SHERRY A. REISS, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Somerset County, whose opinions are reported at 195 N.J. Super 150 and 200 N.J. Super. 122.

O'Brien, Simpson and Scalera. The opinion of the court was delivered by Simpson, J.A.D.

Simpson

In these consolidated cases, plaintiff husband appeals from the calculation of the amount of reimbursement alimony awarded his wife, the equitable distribution of a savings account one-half to each party, a required contribution towards expenses for the wife to pursue a master's degree, and denial of a post-judgment motion to terminate reimbursement alimony payments upon the wife's remarriage less than two months after the divorce. Most of the factual background is contained in the trial court's opinions reported as Reiss v. Reiss, 195 N.J. Super. 150 (Ch.Div.1984) hereafter " Reiss I " and Reiss v. Reiss, 200 N.J. Super. 122 (Ch.Div.1984) hereafter " Reiss II ". The husband's contentions in Reiss I are that:

Point I THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FIXING THE AMOUNT OF REIMBURSEMENT ALIMONY TO BE PAID BY HUSBAND . . .

Point II THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN AWARDING WIFE ONE-HALF OF HUSBAND'S SAVINGS ACCOUNT ACQUIRED AFTER THE SEPARATION OF THE PARTIES. . . .

Point III THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ORDERING HUSBAND TO CONTRIBUTE TO WIFE'S EXPENSES IN OBTAINING A MASTER'S DEGREE IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION. . . .

In Point I the husband objects to Judge Imbriani's calculation of $46,706.50 reimbursement alimony as

Although the judge's calculations are not directly contested, Dr. Reiss contends that only one-half of estimated expenses in Spain are reimbursable, excluding estimated vacation expenditures and further excluding any reimbursement for the post-Spain residency period. In our view, plaintiff reads Mahoney v. Mahoney, 91 N.J. 488 (1982) too narrowly. At page 501 of that seminal case, Justice Pashman states that:

To provide a fair and effective means of compensating a supporting spouse who has suffered a loss or reduction of support, or has incurred a lower standard of living, or has been deprived of a better standard of living in the future, the Court now introduces the concept of reimbursement alimony into divorce proceedings. The concept properly accords with the Court's belief that regardless of the appropriateness of permanent alimony or the presence or absence of marital property to be equitably distributed, there will be circumstances where a supporting spouse should be reimbursed for the financial contributions he or she made to the spouse's successful professional training. Such reimbursement alimony should cover all financial contributions towards the former spouse's education, including household expenses, educational costs, school travel expenses and any other contributions used by the supported spouse in obtaining his or her degree or license.

Under the circumstances of this case and substantially for the reasons set forth by the trial judge in Reiss I, we are satisfied that the earnings technique utilized in computing reimbursement alimony was appropriate. There were no children and the couple returned from Spain "with no savings and minimal personal property," Reiss I, supra 195 N.J. Super. at 155. We also approve the differential earnings technique used for Dr. Reiss' residency period, which is really an extension of his "successful professional training" as contemplated to be within the scope of a reimbursement alimony period in Mahoney, supra 91 N.J. at 501. The difficulty in calculating a

supporting spouse's "contributions" toward a former spouse's education, or the amount of appropriate reimbursement alimony, is apparent from the figures supplied the court by the parties. The wife sought $40,414.50, or one-half of her $84,329 earnings in Spain less $3,500 used for vacations, when the husband earned virtually nothing. For this period the husband suggested $8,030.50 or one-half of certain estimated expenses of $16,061 for rent, utilities, food costs, etc. The record contains no explanation of the difference between the wife's earnings of $84,329 and the $16,061 except some estimates for vacations, movies, ballet, etc. Since there were no savings and minimal personal property upon the couple's return from Spain, the only reasonable conclusion is that the pair otherwise spent the money for undocumented living expenses. In any event, to the extent the differential may have been expended for things like social security taxes creditable only to the wife and not deemed properly includable in reimbursement alimony, we are satisfied they are roughly offset by the delay in reimbursement of the wife, between the earnings periods from 1973 through part of 1978 and the date the monthly payments would have terminated in 1986 without interest.*fn1 In other words, ...


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