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Strahan v. Strahan

August 26, 2008


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FM-07-1858-05.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Parker, J.A.D.




Argued April 9, 2008

Before Judges Parker, R. B. Coleman and Lyons.

Plaintiff Michael Strahan appeals from an amended judgment of divorce entered on January 12, 2007 and an order entered on March 22, 2007 denying his motion for reconsideration.

Plaintiff is a football player who has been under contract with the New York Giants since 1993. He began dating defendant in October 1994. At the time they met, defendant was employed as a model and manager for a cosmetics company, earning about $70,000 per year. In 1995, the parties moved in together and defendant quit her job, purportedly at plaintiff's request. When plaintiff extended a marriage proposal, defendant agreed to sign a pre-nuptial agreement (agreement) before they married on July 18, 1999. Twin girls were born of the marriage on October 28, 2004.

The complaint for divorce was filed on March 14, 2005. The parties were able to agree on joint legal custody of the children with defendant having primary residential custody. The matter was tried over eleven days in June and July 2006. A dual judgment of divorce was entered on July 20, 2006 dissolving the marriage. An amended judgment was entered on January 12, 2007 addressing the validity of the agreement, equitable distribution, child support, disability insurance for plaintiff and counsel fees.

In this appeal, plaintiff argues that (1) he performed his obligations under the agreement and the equitable distribution of the parties' joint assets exceeded the amount to which defendant was entitled under the agreement; (2) the trial court erred in its calculation of child support and failed to make the necessary findings of fact and conclusions of law in awarding child support; (3) the trial court erred in requiring plaintiff to pay ninety-one percent of the total child support; (4) the trial court erred in ordering plaintiff to obtain a $7.5 million disability insurance policy; and (5) the trial court erred in awarding $13,777.50 in counsel and accountant fees to defendant.

During the pendency of this appeal, the parties reached an agreement and entered a partial stipulation dismissing the equitable distribution issues, leaving only child support, the disability insurance and counsel fees to be addressed by this court. On July 11, 2008 an order was entered memorializing the stipulation and allowing the parties to distribute the monies held in the court's trust fund escrow account. Accordingly, we will address only the remaining issues of (a) child support; (b) the disability insurance policy; and (c) counsel fees.

A. Child Support

Plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in setting the amount of supplemental child support and in ordering him to pay 91% of the amount.

Both parents have a shared obligation to support their children. Koelble v. Koelble, 261 N.J. Super. 190, 194 (App. Div. 1992). "[W]here the parties have the financial wherewithal to provide for their children, the children are entitled to the benefit of financial advantages available to them." Isaacson v. Isaacson, 348 N.J. Super. 560, 579 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 174 N.J. 364 (2002). "Children are entitled to not only bare necessities, but a supporting parent has the obligation to share with his children the benefit of his financial achievement." Id. at 580.

In setting child support, the court shall consider the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a):

(1) Needs of the child;

(2) Standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;

(3) All sources of income and assets of each parent;

(4) Earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children including the cost of providing child care and the length of time and cost of each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment;

(5) Need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education;

(6) Age and health of the child and each parent;

(7) Income, assets and earning ability of the child;

(8) Responsibility of the parents for the court-ordered ...

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