June 13, 2007
SIMA MILGRAUM, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
SANDY SAUL MILGRAUM, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FM-20-5-03G.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued March 28, 2007
Before Judges Parker, Yannotti and Messano.
This is defendant's third appeal with respect to alimony awarded in the judgment of divorce entered on December 4, 1998. On July 7, 2000, we reversed and remanded "for reconsideration of the entire alimony issue," and the allocation of the parties' liabilities. We affirmed the judgment with respect to all other issues.
On February 13, 2001, without further hearing, the trial court entered an order on remand directing defendant to pay plaintiff $250,000 per year in alimony. Defendant appealed and on January 27, 2003, we rendered an opinion in which we again reversed and remanded for a de novo calculation by a different judge and consideration of defendant's Lepis*fn1 application.
After extensive litigation between the parties involving several motions, hearings and entry of orders, the remand hearing finally began in February 2005. It was carried for a period of time to allow the parties to engage in settlement negotiations. When those negotiations failed, the parties engaged in further motion practice before the remand hearing was continued in August 2005. The parties ultimately submitted written summations and on December 23, 2005, Judge Kathryn A. Brock rendered a fifty-three page letter opinion in which she set forth the extensive procedural history, detailed findings of fact, made a thorough analysis of the law and drew conclusions consistent with and supported by the extensive evidence presented to the court. The letter opinion included a worksheet showing the calculations utilized by the court in reaching its 2005. The order stated:
1. The plaintiff is awarded permanent alimony as of the date of the entry of the Judgment of Divorce, December 4, 1998. Said support shall be nontaxable to the amount of $5,929 per week and shall terminate upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the plaintiff. Said support shall be payable through the appropriate probation department.
2. The defendant's child support obligation which was not appealed, shall remain $187,970 per year as of the date of the entry of the Judgment of Divorce, December 4, 1998, $60,000 of which is payable directly to the children's schools, and the balance of which, $127,970 or $2,461 per week shall be paid to the plaintiff through the appropriate probation department.
3. The defendant's motion to modify his spousal support obligation as of August of 1999 is denied for failure to prove a significant change of circumstances.
4. The probation department is directed to adjust the account in accordance with this Order.
5. The defendant's ability to pay arrears must be determined based upon a current assessment of the parties' financial circumstances. That issue may be considered at the same time as the pending motion to address the defendant's current support obligation to the discretion of the trial judge to whom this case has now been assigned.
6. A copy of this Order is being served by the court on counsel for both parties and the probation department.
Defendant once again appealed, this time seeking review of nine orders entered between February 18, 2004 and December 23, 2005. In this appeal, defendant argues:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN IT[S] ALIMONY DETERMINATION AFTER REMAND, MISCONCEIVING THE LAW AND FACTS, SO THAT ITS RESULTING DETERMINATION CONSTITUTES AN ARBITRARY ACT NOT ENTITLED TO DEFERENCE AND IT SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO STAND, RENDERING REVERSAL PROPER
A. Standard of Review
B. Actual Need and Ability to Pay
C. The Court's Permanent Alimony Decision is Arbitrary and Illogical
D. The Alimony Award is not Supported by the Weight of the Evidence
We need not relate the extensive procedural history and statement of facts because they have been set forth in detail in our two previous opinions and Judge Brock's letter opinion dated December 23, 2005. We have carefully considered the very extensive record in this case in light of defendant's arguments and the applicable law. We are satisfied that this appeal lacks sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We affirm substantially for the reasons set forth by Judge Brock in her thoughtful and thorough letter opinion dated December 23, 2005. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A).