On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County.
King, Gruccio and Brochin. The opinion of the court was delivered by Brochin, J.A.D.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
This appeal arises in the aftermath of a bitter divorce and custody battle between defendant, Dr. Wendy Cohen, and plaintiff, Dr. Norman Cohen. Defendant Wendy Cohen established an account for her daughter under the New Jersey Uniform Gifts to Minors Act ("UGMA"), N.J.S.A. 46:38-13 et seq., naming herself as custodian. Plaintiff Norman Cohen, on behalf of his daughter, contested some of the custodian's expenditures from this account. The Chancery Division determined that the reimbursements which Dr. Wendy Cohen had taken from the UGMA account funds were inappropriate and ordered her to repay them to her daughter without interest. We affirm the Chancery Division's decision.
Drs. Norman and Wendy Cohen were married in 1970 and have one child, Jessica, born in 1972. They were divorced in 1976. Dr. Wendy Cohen was granted custody of Jessica pursuant to a settlement agreement which also provided that Dr. Norman Cohen would be responsible for $450.00 a month child support.
For several years, Drs. Wendy and Norman Cohen and Dr. Wendy Cohen's parents were engaged in litigating questions of custody and visitation. On September 27, 1988, a consent order was entered which terminated the case on conditions. More than a year later, Dr. Norman Cohen applied to terminate child support, sought reimbursement of child support from Dr. Wendy Cohen, and also sought an accounting for the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act account. The court directed Dr. Norman Cohen
to pay support directly to Jessica because she had become estranged from her mother, was no longer residing with her, and was attending college. The court also ordered Dr. Wendy Cohen to provide a full accounting for the account. She appealed the order. In an unpublished per curiam decision dated October 16, 1990, this court affirmed the Chancery Division's decision ordering an accounting. However, we reserved decision on whether Dr. Wendy Cohen should be surcharged.
Dr. Wendy Cohen submitted a formal accounting, moved to confirm it and sought attorneys' fees. Dr. Norman Cohen cross-moved for a judgment surcharging Dr. Wendy Cohen for some of the expenditures from the UGMA account. Jessica also joined in the motion by presenting her own certification contesting the expenditures. On June 4, 1991, the lower court entered an order disallowing $30,437.00 of expenditures for which Dr. Wendy Cohen had reimbursed herself from the UGMA account, denied pre-judgment interest, and denied attorneys' fees. Dr. Wendy Cohen appeals from this order. Dr. Norman Cohen has cross-appealed, arguing that Dr. Wendy Cohen should be charged interest on the expenditures which were disallowed.
All of the funds in Jessica's UGMA account had been contributed by Dr. Wendy Cohen. She established the account in 1979 for Jessica's benefit and named herself as custodian. During the next three years, she deposited $53,902.42 in the account. These funds earned approximately $21,565.00 of interest. As of February 1988, the total amount in the account was $75,485.42. Dr. Wendy Cohen used these funds for Jessica's benefit. She paid some of the money to schools and camps which her daughter attended, and she reimbursed herself from the UGMA account for other items of her daughter's support and for attorney's fees incurred in the litigation with her parents and husband contesting custody of Jessica.
The accounting for the UGMA account which Dr. Wendy Cohen submitted to the court is ...