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Geaney v. Geaney

May 14, 2008


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-150-07-C; Mercer County, Docket No. FM-11-679-98-C.

Per curiam.


Argued April 21, 2008

Before Judges Lintner, Graves and Sabatino.

The parties were married in 1979 and divorced in 1999. They have two sons----one is now nineteen years old, and the other is now sixteen. Plaintiff Michael Geaney appeals from three orders: (1) an order dated July 18, 2006, denying his post-divorce motion to modify his alimony and child support obligations; (2) an order dated April 19, 2007, denying his motion for reconsideration and clarification of the order entered on July 18, 2006; and (3) an order dated May 7, 2007, requiring plaintiff to pay defendant Lillian Geaney alimony in the amount of $1000 per week and child support in the amount of $348 per week. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

On July 28, 1999, the parties signed a forty-page property settlement agreement (PSA), which was incorporated into their judgment of divorce (JOD). Under paragraphs six and seven of the PSA, plaintiff agreed to pay $575 per week in alimony and $266 per week in child support. Plaintiff also agreed to maintain his existing health insurance, or its equivalent, for the children until they became emancipated. The PSA specifically provided that plaintiff's alimony obligation was subject to "modification in the event of a change in circumstances . . . pursuant to Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980) and the existing case law thereunder."

Pursuant to a consent order dated July 20, 2004, plaintiff's alimony payments increased from $575 per week to $1000 per week, and his child support payments for the two minor children of the marriage increased from $297*fn1 per week to $358 per week. As noted in the consent order, these amounts were based on "[p]laintiff's 2003 gross annual income of $167,000 and income being imputed to the [d]efendant of $9360 gross annually."

On January 6, 2006, plaintiff, along with approximately 500 others, was involuntarily terminated from his employment with McGraw-Hill Companies (McGraw). In a letter dated January 9, 2006, Maureen Marshall, Director of Corporate Human Resources, advised: "Michael Geaney has been terminated with severance from the McGraw-Hill Companies, effective January 6, 2006 due to reorganization." In a subsequent letter dated March 2, 2006, Sheila O'Neill, Vice President of Corporate Human Resources wrote: "This letter confirms that Michael Geaney's employment with The McGraw-Hill Companies was involuntarily terminated on January 6, 2006. This termination was due to reorganization. Consequently, there was not any alternative employment available at McGraw Hill for Mr. Geaney." Plaintiff received a severance check from McGraw for $12,625.87, as well as employment services to aid him in obtaining other employment.

Plaintiff possesses an Associates Degree in computer operations and general business from Mercer County Community College. At the time he was terminated, plaintiff had been working at McGraw for approximately seven years as "a manager in a technology department." According to his 2005 tax return, plaintiff's total income in 2005 was $206,955, which was mainly salary.

On January 27, 2006, plaintiff filed a "Notice of Motion for Modification of Child Support & Termination of Alimony Due to Substantial Changed Circumstances & Other Relief" in Mercer County. In support of his motion, plaintiff certified:

Since my termination, I have been actively seeking employment in my field--the technology field--and in other fields. I have forwarded my resume to several "head-hunters" to aid me in my employment search for a similar position, either full-time, part-time or on a contract basis. So far, I have submitted 15 applications in my field or related technology field[s] since my unemployment.

Plaintiff also submitted copies of his and resume postings, as well as e-mails sent to various individuals inquiring about available positions.

On February 27, 2006, the trial court issued a tentative decision denying plaintiff's motion, stating, in pertinent part:

Since January 6, 2006, plaintiff's attempts to secure employment have been scarce. Although he forwards his resume to friends and former colleagues via e[-]mail, he does not submit proof of (1) daily search results from and interviews with recruiting companies; (2) free online search engine attempts; (3) registration with paid online search companies; (4) listing his resume with and applying to potential employers across the United States; or (5) applying for lower paying jobs or to blind advertisements. Moreover, he ...

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