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Muniz v. Bonilla

August 31, 2007

SHARON MUNIZ, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
AXEL BONILLA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, FD-16-1990-01.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted July 17, 2007

Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Sapp-Peterson.

Defendant Axel Bonilla appeals from an order of June 23, 2006, increasing his weekly child support obligation from $87 to $168. We affirm.

The parties, who were never married, have a daughter, born June 2, 2000. Defendant also pays child support for two other children from his previous marriage. As a result of plaintiff's motion for child support, which was filed on April 30, 2001, an order was entered directing defendant to pay weekly child support in the amount of $77. On March 22, 2006, plaintiff filed a motion to increase defendant's weekly child support obligation. At the time the motion was filed, defendant's obligation, due to cost of living adjustments, had increased to $87.

The court conducted a hearing over two non-consecutive days. At the conclusion of the first hearing, the court directed defendant to submit the 2003 Case Information Statement (CIS) submitted in connection with his divorce, as well as his 2004 tax return and 1099 from his employer.

The hearing resumed on June 19, 2006. Defendant supplied copies of his 2003 and 2004 tax returns along with copies of his 1099. He did not supply the 2003 CIS. His attorney represented that defendant could not locate it but did present a 2000 CIS defendant completed as part of a pendente lite application. In 2000, defendant's net income was approximately $150,000.

Defendant testified that he was experienced in the real estate business and was currently working as a mortgage broker. He indicated that his income was dramatically reduced due to the loss of his business following legal problems. These legal problems eventually led to defendant's conviction for mail fraud and he was awaiting sentencing at the time of the hearing. According to defendant, his current income was approximately $42,000.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge determined that defendant was underemployed and imputed an additional $21,350 in income to defendant and ordered defendant to pay $168 in weekly child support to plaintiff. The judge was of the opinion that defendant's 2000 income had been inflated and was part of defendant's ill-gotten gains that ultimately resulted in his indictment by a federal grand jury and plea to mail fraud. He found that defendant's "plight" had been "brought on by himself, his own activities, and because of his activities, he was under-employed[,] [n]ot to the extent of $150,000 though." The judge also found that based upon the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the closest occupation that he could find to a mortgage broker was a loan officer:

I have examined the U.S. Department of . . . Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational and employment and wage estimates for New Jersey dated May 2005[,] [a]nd the closest category I could find to a mortgage officer is a loan officer[,] [a]nd the average income for a loan officer . . . in New Jersey is $63,350. The Court deems that the Defendant is under-employed, not making what he should because of circumstances brought on by himself and I'm going to use that income as his income base for the guideline calculation.

That computes to $1,218 per week gross income pursuant to the guidelines. The amount of child support is increased to $168 per week and retroactive to March 20th, 2006.

On appeal defendant raises the following points for ...


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