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Suchenski v. Suchenski

January 15, 2008

VICTORIA L. SUCHENSKI, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT/CROSS-APPELLANT,
v.
RICHARD C. SUCHENSKI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT/CROSS-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Mercer County, Docket No. FM-11-393-05.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued November 5, 2007

Before Judges Weissbard and Gilroy.

Defendant Richard C. Suchenski appeals from the final judgment of divorce entered in the Family Part on July 12, 2006, after a contested trial. Plaintiff Victoria L. Suchenski cross-appeals. We affirm.

I.

The parties were married on August 2, 1980. Four children were born of the marriage, ages 23, 21, 19 and 15 at time of trial. On October 20, 2004, plaintiff filed a complaint for divorce. Following seventeen months of motion practice, a tenday trial commenced on March 8, 2006, and concluded May 4, 2006, during which the parties presented evidence addressing the issues of: permanent alimony; rehabilitative alimony; child custody; child support, including future college expenses of the unemancipated children; attorney fees; and equitable distribution of marital assets, including the parties' respective interests in Giselle Dancewear, LLC, a small retail business operated by plaintiff in Princeton, and in Clearview Zeigler Acquisition Co., LLC, defendant's former employer, having an office in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

On June 19, 2006, Judge Ostrer issued a ninety-three-page written opinion. Among other matters, the judge: 1) awarded plaintiff permanent alimony of $9,600 per month, commencing July 1, 2006; 2) awarded plaintiff rehabilitative alimony for a period of one year ending June 30, 2007, in the amount of $770 per month; 3) directed defendant to pay child support for the youngest child in the amount of "$463 a week until July 1, 2007, and $474 thereafter, consistent with the guidelines, and accounting for the difference in alimony after the expiration of the period of rehabilitative alimony"; 4) equitably distributed the marital assets, including the parties' interests in Giselle and Clearview by awarding plaintiff sole and exclusive interest in Giselle and awarding defendant his 1.5% membership in Clearview; and 5) awarded plaintiff $24,820 in attorney fees and costs.

On July 10, 2006, the judge issued a supplemental opinion resolving several issues that arose from the parties' attempted settlement of the final order. On July 12, 2006, the trial judge entered a confirming final judgment of divorce.

On appeal, defendant argues:

POINT I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN AWARDING ALIMONY THAT EXCEEDED THE REALISTIC STANDARD OF LIVING IN THE MARRIAGE, THAT WAS BASED UPON DEFENDANT'S CURRENT INCOME INCLUSIVE OF BONUS WHEN THERE WAS NO BONUS HISTORY AND IN FAILING TO CONSIDER THE IMPACT OF BOTH ALIMONY AND EQU[I]TABLE DISTRIBUTION DEFENDANT'S ABILITY TO MAINTAIN A SIMILAR STANDARD OF LIVING IN THE FUTURE.

A. PLAINTIFF IS NOT ENTITLED TO A BETTER LIFESTYLE THAN THE PARTIES ENJOYED DURING THE MARRIAGE SIMPLY BECAUSE DEFENDANT MAY HAVE INCREASED EARNINGS IN FUTURE.

B. DEFENDANT'S ABILITY TO PAY AND THE AMOUNT OF ALIMONY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN BASED UPON COMPLETE SPECULATION AS TO FUTURE EARNINGS.

C. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO ASSESS PLAINTIFF'S ABILITY TO GENERATE INCOME FROM GISELLE.

D. THE TRIAL COURT FAILED TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THE COMBINED IMPACT OF THE SUPPORT AWARDED AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION ON DEFENDANT'S LIFESTYLE AND ABILITY TO [] ACQUIRE ASSETS IN FUTURE.

POINT II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN AWARDING PLAINTIFF $25,000 FOR CLEARVIEW WHILE LEAV[]ING DEFENDANT WITH THE FULL DEBT FOR THIS 'ASSET.'

POINT III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN AWARDING COUNSEL FEES TO PLAINTIFF WHERE DEFENDANT HAS AN EQUAL DEBT AND NO GREATER ABILITY TO PAY.

On cross-appeal, plaintiff argues:

POINT I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY FIXING THE PARTIES' RESPECTIVE CONTRIBUTIONS TO COLLEGE EXPENSES BASED UPON CURRENT INCOME RATHER THAN ACTUAL INCOME INTO THE FUTURE.

POINT II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN AWARDING PLAINTIFF INSUFFICIENT ALIMONY DURING THE PERIOD UNTIL ...


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