On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, FM-02-1799-03.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Skillman, Winkelstein and Yannotti.
Plaintiff, a major league baseball player, and defendant, his former spouse, were divorced in 2004. Defendant moved for an increase in the child support and alimony awards that were entered as part of the final judgment of divorce. Plaintiff appeals from a July 27, 2006 order increasing his alimony and child support obligations, and imposing the increases retroactively;*fn1 and requiring him to use a car service to transport his children to his baseball games, instead of permitting them to be transported by his new wife or his mother. He also appeals from an August 4, 2006 order directing him to pay defendant's counsel fees. We affirm the counsel fee order, and those portions of the July 27, 2006 order that awarded child support and required a car service to transport the children. We reverse that portion of the order that increased plaintiff's alimony obligation.
The parties were married in January 1994, two years after plaintiff began his professional baseball career. They had two children: a daughter, born on March 26, 1996, and a son, born on September 14, 1997. From the time the parties were married until their divorce, plaintiff played for different teams and his income varied considerably. From 1994 through 2004, he earned the following:
In 2005, he signed a two-year contract with the Seattle Mariners, which paid him $2.2 million in 2005, inclusive of a $500,000 signing bonus, and $2 million in 2006, with built-in performance based incentives.
The parties' final judgment of divorce, entered January 22, 2004, and supplemented on April 23, 2004, incorporated a settlement agreement, which provided, among other things, that plaintiff would pay defendant $144,000 annual permanent alimony. The agreement also included a mechanism that would allow either party to seek modification of the alimony dependent upon plaintiff's future income.*fn2
I. ALIMONY, SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE OF THE WIFE
A. The Husband shall pay to the Wife the sum of One Hundred Forty-Four Thousand ($144,000.00) Dollars per year as and for alimony, payable in equal monthly payments of Twelve Thousand ($12,000.00) Dollars per month, commencing on February 1, 2004, . . . and subject to the adjustment as hereinafter set forth.
B. Payment of alimony in the sum as set forth in "A" shall continue, so long as the Husband has earnings from his current baseball contract, including licensing fees and endorsements, annually between the sum of Nine Hundred Fifty Thousand ($950,000.00) Dollars and One Million Five Hundred Thousand ($1,500,000.00) Dollars. In the event the Husband earns less than said sum, then the Husband has the right to apply to the Court for a reduction in alimony unless it can be otherwise negotiated by agreement between the Parties. If the Husband has earnings in excess of said sum, then the Wife may seek an increase in alimony from the Court.
On March 30, 2006, based on plaintiff signing his Mariners contract, defendant moved to have the existing $144,000 annual alimony award increased by $75,000 in 2005 and $105,000 in 2006, effective retroactively. She also sought a $5250 increase in plaintiff's monthly $7000 child support obligation, retroactive to January 1, 2006; and $85,817.74 as retroactive child support for 2005.
Following argument on defendant's motion, and plaintiff's cross-motion for relief that is not the subject of this appeal, the court increased plaintiff's child support obligation by $5250 a month, and ordered him to pay $63,000 in retroactive support for 2005, and $36,750 for 2006. The court granted, and retroactively imposed, defendant's request for increased alimony in the amounts she requested: $75,000 for 2005 and $105,000 for 2006. The court also ordered plaintiff to provide a car service for his children when they attended his baseball games with either ...