On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Morris County, FM-19-307-95.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 11, 2007
Before Judges Coburn, Fuentes and Chambers.
In this matrimonial case, plaintiff, Alan March, sought termination of the permanent alimony provided by him to his former wife, defendant, Mindy Goldberg, pursuant to their property settlement agreement. He contended that termination of alimony was appropriate because his former wife could maintain the marital standard of living on the income she earned and the terms of the agreement allowed for an adjustment in alimony payments based on changed circumstances. After conducting a plenary hearing, the trial court denied the application. Since the record supports the trial judge's determination that termination of the alimony was unwarranted, we affirm. We expressly do not address the issue of whether a reduction in the alimony is appropriate, since that issue was not raised before the trial court.
The parties were married in 1976 and had three children. Plaintiff is a certified public accountant, and defendant is a nurse. Defendant had stopped working full time when their second child was born in 1982. She did some part time work thereafter, but earned only nominal income. Thus, during most of the marriage, plaintiff was the supporting spouse. The parties' first home was a ranch style house in a middle class neighborhood in Paramus, which they purchased in 1977 for about $60,000 to $65,000. They, thereafter, sold that house and purchased an upscale 5,000 square foot home in Sparta for $410,000, which had four bedrooms and two and one-half baths. While the parties did not spend extravagantly, the family took vacations, owned reasonably priced cars, and shopped from low to high priced stores.
The parties separated in 1994 and were divorced in 1999. The record indicates that for the five years preceding their separation, plaintiff's income averaged about $92,000 a year.
The parties entered into a property settlement agreement dated January 15, 1999, which was incorporated into the Judgment of Divorce dated February 22, 1999. Paragraph 14 of the property settlement agreement provides for the payment of alimony as follows:
Husband agrees to pay to Wife, as permanent alimony, the sum of Four Hundred and Twenty-Five ($425.00) Dollars per week commencing the week of January 11, 1999.
Husband's obligation to pay alimony will end, and he will be released from the obligations thereof, upon the death of Wife. In addition, Husband's obligation for alimony payments to Wife shall cease upon Wife's remarriage, or upon the death of Husband.
If Wife is cohabiting with a man or woman to whom she is not married or related by blood, who is making financial contributions to the benefit of Wife in a relationship tantamount to marriage, then, and in such event, alimony payments shall cease. . . .
The parties acknowledge their right in the future to request that the Court modify the amount of alimony being paid based upon a material change in the parties [sic] financial circumstances but agree not to make such an application during the twenty four (24) months immediately after the execution of this Agreement.
Paragraph 17(b) of the agreement required plaintiff to pay, as additional alimony, the monthly costs of defendant's health insurance for a period of two years. However, in the event defendant obtained employment and her employer offered free or less expensive coverage, she was required to elect that coverage, and plaintiff was required to pay the cost of that coverage.
The agreement also gave plaintiff custody of two of the children, while defendant had custody of one child, although that child later went to live with the father. Provisions were made for child support payments, not in issue before this court. The marital residence was sold, and ...