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Bush v. Bush

August 3, 2007

DEBORAH BUSH, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JASON BUSH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket No. FM-03-451-05X.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted July 17, 2007

Before Judges C.S. Fisher and Grall.

Defendant Jason Bush appeals certain aspects of a final judgment of divorce, entered after a non-jury trial, and an order, entered with regard to a post-judgment motion for reconsideration, which modified the judgment. We conclude that the judge's findings are well-supported by the credible evidence adduced during the trial, and affirm.

Following the completion of the trial, Judge John L. Call, Jr. rendered a thorough written decision. We briefly outline some of the facts contained in that decision.

The parties were married in 1978. Two children were born of the marriage -- one is emancipated, the other is not. Defendant's employment with Budd Company, which began in 1974, four years before the parties married, ended in 2004, not long before the divorce proceedings commenced. At the time of trial, defendant was 53 years old and in good health.

Judge Call found that defendant had not made a good faith effort to replace the loss of income after his relationship with Budd ended in 2004. As a result, the judge based the alimony and child support awards by imputing income to defendant, which, when added to certain other income, totaled $53,733 per annum. Specifically, this figure was based on imputed income to defendant in the amount of $36,933 per annum, which was his income while working for Budd in 2000 before it began to decrease in the following years due to downsizing, together with defendant's passive rental income, and income derived from defendant's so-called flea market activities. In light of these findings, a final judgment of divorce was entered on February 8, 2006, which ordered defendant to pay plaintiff $200 per week in permanent alimony, and $100 per week in child support.

In addition, the judge rejected defendant's argument that certain parcels of real property, held in his name alone, were not subject to equitable distribution, and found that defendant's claim that he paid for repairs to structures on these parcels lacked credibility. The judge also ordered defendant to pay plaintiff $22,417.58 in counsel fees.

Following the entry of judgment, defendant moved for reconsideration. Judge Call reduced the amount of income attributed to defendant by eliminating the flea market income of $8,800 per year. As a result, an order, which contained the judge's written findings, was entered on March 16, 2006. By way of this order, the judge reduced the alimony award to $180 per week and the child support to $80 per week, among other things.

Defendant appealed, raising the following arguments for our consideration:

I. THE LOWER COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT IMPUTED INCOME TO THE DEFENDANT[].

II. THE LOWER COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT AWARDED ...


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