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Galtieri v. Galtieri

February 26, 2009


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division - Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-1018-00C.

Per curiam.


Submitted: January 29, 2009

Before Judges Axelrad and Messano.

Plaintiff John F. Galtieri appeals from three post-judgment orders of the Chancery Division, Family Part: (1) a June 27, 2007 order entering judgment in favor of Patricia Kane, the parties' daughter, as administratrix of defendant's estate,*fn1 for outstanding alimony arrears and other monies due defendant under the final judgment of divorce; (2) an amended July 11, 2007 order that clarifies that the outstanding life insurance premiums and loans for Patricia's college education are deemed alimony and support obligations and thus subject to continued garnishment from plaintiff's Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits; and (3) an amended January 28, 2008 order, modifying the two prior orders following a bankruptcy order and our remand, that adds into the judgment attorney's fees paid by defendant at the closing of the marital residence. We affirm.

We need not recite at length the litigious history of state and federal proceedings on both trial and appellate levels that plaintiff pursued pre- and post-divorce, referenced in detail in the trial court's June 27, 2007 memorandum decision and our prior opinions. See Galtieri v. Galtieri (Galtieri I), No. A-5141-02T5, No. A-6147-02T5 (App. Div. Feb. 17, 2004); Galtieri v. Kane (Galtieri II), No. A-2651-03T1 (App. Div. Aug. 19, 2004); Galtieri v. Kane (Galtieri III), No. A-5865-03T1 (App. Div. May 25, 2005); Galtieri v. Kane (Galtieri IV), No. A-4026-04T1 (App. Div. Oct. 26, 2005).

Briefly, the parties were married in l976, and their daughter is emancipated. Plaintiff is a former New York City police officer who retired on disability in l980. The parties separated around November l999, when defendant obtained a temporary restraining order, which was dismissed on March 27, 2000. A divorce complaint and counterclaim were filed in 2000, and interim support orders and bench warrants were entered by the Family Part. Following a trial, on May 19, 2003, a judgment of divorce (FJD) was entered on defendant's counterclaim and obligated plaintiff to pay defendant, among other items, $2,200 per month in permanent alimony and $30,000 representing equitable distribution of her 50% interest in jewelry plaintiff took from the business known as "Jeanne's Jewelry." The FJD further provided for defendant to receive 50% of the net proceeds as equitable distribution from the sale of the former marital home upon application to the bankruptcy court, and awarded defendant a $400,000 compensatory and punitive damages judgment on her Tevis*fn2 spousal abuse claim. As noted in the FJD, plaintiff had pendente lite arrears at that time of $25,945.48, and was placed on bench warrant status. We affirmed plaintiff's appeal of the FJD and related orders, as well as subsequent orders directing payment of alimony through garnishment of plaintiff's N.Y.C.P.D. pension and SSD benefits.

During the state litigation, on November 30, 2000, plaintiff filed a Chapter l3 Bankruptcy, which was converted to a Chapter 7 proceeding on May 23, 200l, and a discharge order was entered on September 4, 200l. Various matters were referred to the state court for resolution. There were also several bankruptcy court proceedings, including a December 15, 2003 order including findings of fact that: (1) plaintiff's 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(1) debtor's property exemption of $16,150 should be made to defendant "in partial satisfaction of her pendente lite support and alimony judgment amount of $25,945.48[]" (paragraph 62); and (2) plaintiff "disputes the Superior Court's finding that he has $60,000 worth of jewelry; and no such asset was scheduled in the bankruptcy case. . . . This court will thus deem the jewelry not subject to distribution at this time[]" (paragraph 39); further explaining that defendant's $30,000 post-petition equitable distribution claim would persist because no jewelry had been found to distribute (paragraph 45).

Numerous post-judgment motions were filed in state court, and on several occasions plaintiff was found in violation of litigants rights or sanctioned.

According to Judge Guadagno's memorandum decision, in December 2006 plaintiff filed another motion to terminate the garnishment of his SSD payments, which was denied in a December l4, 2006 written decision and order. Pursuant to defendant's cross-motion, Judge Guadagno fixed alimony arrearages at $35,705.88; increased the amount of garnishment withheld by SSD to pay the premium on the $200,000 Zurich Life Insurance Policy, which plaintiff was obligated to pay; and imposed an additional monetary sanction against plaintiff for nonpayment of a prior sanction. Plaintiff neither appealed nor sought reconsideration of this order.

The motion that led to this appeal was plaintiff's motion to vacate an order dated May 20, 2005 that garnished $1,222 from his monthly SSD benefits, and to restore these benefits to him "in full" as a result of defendant's death. The administratrix sought to intervene on behalf of the estate, opposed plaintiff's motion and requested the monthly payment be made to the estate to satisfy the arrears and other monies due defendant at the time of her death under the FJD, and filed a cross-motion to enforce the FJD for the benefit of the estate. Plaintiff replied, asserting that, at the time of defendant's death, there was actually a balance due him.

By order of June 27, 2007, plaintiff's relief was denied, the administratrix's motion to intervene was granted, and judgment was entered in favor of the estate in the amount of $672,582.06, explained in detail in the accompanying memorandum decision as follows:

a. property proceeds of former marital home ($147,000);

b. equitable distribution of defendant's jewelry business ...

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