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Anderson v. Ludeking

October 9, 2008

ELIZABETH F. ANDERSON, F/K/A ELIZABETH LUDEKING, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
STEVEN G. LUDEKING, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-2063-01-C.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 11, 2008

Before Judges Winkelstein and Gilroy.

Defendant Steven G. Ludeking appeals from the August 8, 2007 order of the Family Part. We affirm.

Plaintiff Elizabeth F. Anderson, f/k/a Elizabeth Ludeking, and defendant were married on September 21, 1991, and divorced on March 7, 2002. One child was born of the marriage, a daughter, born in November 1994. On January 29, 2002, the parties entered into a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), resolving issues of alimony, custody, child support, and equitable distribution. At the time the PSA was executed, defendant was employed by Deterrent Technologies, Inc. (Deterrent), where, in addition to receiving a salary, he held a 15% ownership interest in the company. Plaintiff was not employed during the marriage, having chosen to remain at home to raise their daughter.

Paragraphs 2 through 9 of the PSA addressed alimony. Under Paragraphs 2, 3, and 7, defendant agreed to pay plaintiff limited duration alimony in the amount of $50,000 per year, or $4,166 per month, commencing February 15, 2002, and ending December 31, 2011. Paragraph 4 provided that defendant could file an application to modify his alimony obligation in the event he suffered a "substantial change in circumstances." The same paragraph, however, prohibited plaintiff from seeking an increase in alimony "no matter what the financial situation of the parties is or may become."

Paragraph 3 provided that defendant's alimony obligation would terminate on plaintiff's remarriage. Paragraph 5 prohibited defendant from seeking a reduction in his alimony obligation based on plaintiff's future employment, unless her earnings exceeded $25,000 per year.

Paragraphs 9, 10, and 11 of the PSA addressed defendant's child support obligation. Under Paragraph 9, defendant agreed to pay plaintiff child support in the amount of $75,000 per year, payable $6,250 per month, commencing February 1, 2002, "so long as alimony is an obligation of the [defendant], pursuant to Paragraph 10 below." Paragraph 10 provided:

[a]t the time that alimony terminates, whether by [plaintiff's] remarriage or otherwise, then child support shall be reduced to the sum of $3,000 per month, for a total of $36,000 per year. However, if alimony continues for the full 10[-]year period, it will then terminate, however child support will remain at $75,000 [a year] for the next two years [and] then reduce to $36,000 [a year].

Paragraph 11 addressed modification of defendant's child support obligation: "[defendant] agrees not to make any application for the reduction in child support at any time during the child's unemancipation, other than as set forth above with respect to the payment of alimony."

In addition, other provisions of the PSA provided that defendant would be responsible for the cost of his daughter's college education and would pay for her medical insurance coverage and all uncovered medical and/or dental expenses, as long as no expense exceeded $250 for any one condition, illness, or disease without plaintiff first consulting defendant.

Lastly, Paragraph 38 addressed plaintiff's waiver of her claim to defendant's interest in Deterrent: "[i]n consideration for the other provisions of this Agreement and the other provisions regarding equitable distribution, [plaintiff] hereby waives any and all interests that she has or may have in and to the fifteen (15%) [percent] ownership that [defendant] has in Deterrent Technologies, Inc."

In 2006, plaintiff remarried. Accordingly, defendant's alimony obligation terminated, and his child support obligation was reduced from $75,000 a year to $36,000 a year, resulting in a reduction in his support obligations by $89,000 a year. In March 2007, defendant was involuntarily discharged from employment with Deterrent, but still retained his 15% ownership interest in the company. Commencing April 23, 2007, defendant obtained new employment as Vice President of Sales for Structure Works, Inc., earning $150,000 per year plus commission based on the company's profitability. In addition, plaintiff received a 10% ownership interest in the company.

On June 14, 2007, defendant filed a motion seeking to: 1) reduce his child support obligation "from that established by the [PSA], by reason of [his] change in economic circumstances, the passage of time, and the modifications of the Court's Child Support Guidelines;" 2) fix and determine the parties' economic obligation to support their daughter, including the parties' obligations to contribute toward her future college costs; 3) fix and determine plaintiff's earning capacity; 4) fix a schedule for ...


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