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Gwodz v. Gwodz

Decided: June 20, 1989.

RENEE ANN GWODZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
RONALD GWODZ, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County.

Petrella, Shebell and Landau. The opinion of the court was delivered by Landau, J.A.D.

Landau

Plaintiff-appellant Renee Ann Gwodz (Renee) and defendant-respondent Ronald Gwodz (Ronald) were divorced in 1985, and their property settlement agreement was incorporated into the judgment of divorce. Although containing a section respecting federal taxes, the agreement was silent as to allocation of income tax exemptions for the two children of the marriage, Sandra and Jason.

A post-judgment motion in 1986 resulted in establishment of support arrearages and a requirement that support payments be made through Probation. The 1986 order also enforced a cost of living adjustment and imposed limitations upon Ronald's visitation rights, pending psychological evaluation of both parties and the children.

In December 1987, Ronald moved to secure unsupervised visitation with Jason, and for visitation under psychological supervision with Sandra. He asked also that Renee be responsible to pay for Sandra's counseling, for Jason's additional counseling, and that Renee be compelled to attend counseling sessions without her present husband. Ronald further sought to reduce the arrearages, to require that all medical claims be made through his insurance carrier, and to be permitted to claim tax exemptions for both children. Renee's cross-motion requested continued psychological counseling, supervised visitation with Jason, proof that Ronald was receiving alcohol dependency and behavioral counseling, establishment of additional arrearages and counsel fees.

An order was entered on June 6, 1988 which reflected certain agreements reached by the parties on visitation and counseling issues, while reserving determination respecting arrearages and credits. The order also provided that:

[S]ubmission of medical bill claims to insurance carriers shall be as set forth in the prior Orders of this Court. Plaintiff shall forward legible copies of all medical bills to the defendant to submit to his insurance carrier and reimbursements from all policies shall be credited to Mr. Gwodz' obligations and any surplus payments shall be shared equally by the parties; and . . . each party shall be entitled to claim one child as an exemption for income tax purposes; . . .

Renee here appeals only from the above-quoted portion of the June 6 order, urging that it was error to allow Ronald to claim one child as a tax deduction and to provide that the children's medical bills shall be submitted, in the first instance, through his insurance carrier.

THE TAX EXEMPTION PROVISION

Two subquestions are presented by the tax exemption issue: authority of the court to make the order, and the adequacy of the record and findings in support of the court's exercise of such authority.

As to the question of authority for exercise of the power to order that each party shall be entitled to claim one child as an income tax exemption, we cannot speak to its persuasiveness with the Internal Revenue Service. However, as an exercise of the equitable powers of the Chancery Division, we are in accord with the substantial and, we think, better reasoned authority which supports the authority of a state court to exercise such allocation power. See, e.g., Lincoln v. Lincoln, 155 Ariz. 272, 746 P. 2d 13 (Ct.App.1987); In re Marriage of Einhorn, 178 Ill.App. 3d 212, 127 Ill.Dec. 411, 418-419, 533 N.E. 2d 29, 36-37 (App.Ct.1988); Wassif v. Wassif, 77 Md.App. 750, 551 A.2d 935, 940 (Ct.Spec.App.1989), certif. den. 315 Md. 692, 556 A.2d ...


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