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Heald v. Heald

April 2, 2009

JOHN HEALD, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RUTH HEALD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket No. FM-03-387-07.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 27, 2008

Before Judges Lisa, Reisner and Sapp-Peterson.

In this matter, defendant Ruth Heald appeals from post-judgment orders of the Family Part denying her motion for retroactive and prospective increases in alimony, retroactive modification of child support, discovery, and counsel fees. We affirm.

The parties were divorced in November 2006 after twenty-eight years of marriage. Four children were born of the marriage, two of whom were unemancipated at the time the parties divorced. The parties separated in 2005 and, on June 7, 2005, executed a Memorandum of Understanding that established weekly alimony and child support obligations. Plaintiff filed a divorce complaint three months later. Thereafter, extensive negotiations took place between the parties, each of whom was represented by counsel. On August 3, 2006, the parties executed a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). As a result of extensive negotiations, plaintiff's 2004 business income of approximately $500,000 was used as a basis for determining the level of alimony and child support. The PSA provided that plaintiff would pay $130,000 per year in alimony and $20,800 per year in child support. Additionally, plaintiff agreed to be completely responsible for the children's college expenses. He also agreed to pay to defendant a lump sum of $150,000 within thirty days of executing the PSA. Further, under the agreement, defendant received in excess of one million dollars in equitable distribution as well as the marital home. On November 29, 2006, the court entered a final judgment of divorce (FJOD) that incorporated the terms of the PSA.

On February 21, 2007, defendant filed a post-judgment motion seeking various relief that included requiring plaintiff to provide: (1) a copy of his business bank account statement; (2) his business account statements for the twelve months immediately prior to the filing of the divorce complaint; (3) a full and complete copy of plaintiff's federal and state income tax returns; and (3) half the value of plaintiff's business account as of July 11, 2005. Defendant also requested counsel fees and costs. Plaintiff opposed the motion and cross-moved for further relief. Following oral argument, the court invited the parties to submit further written submissions. On April 27, Judge Evan H.C. Crook issued an order that included a written statement of reasons denying all of the aforesaid relief sought by defendant.

On May 17, 2007, defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of the April 27, 2007 order. In the motion, defendant requested that the court find that plaintiff misrepresented his income. Defendant also sought: (1) a full and complete Case Information Statement (CIS) from plaintiff; (2) additional alimony totaling $16,000 per month (or higher); (3) child support consistent with the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines and additional discretionary child support so that the children could share plaintiff's wealth; and (4) retroactive modification of plaintiff's support obligation. Further, defendant requested that plaintiff provide accounting information regarding the $150,000 lump sum payment he made to her, a discovery period for supplemental equitable distribution, additional counsel fees and costs, and sanctions.

On July 3, 2007, following oral argument, Judge Crook issued a second post-judgment order (1) granting defendant's request for plaintiff to provide a complete CIS; (2) denying defendant's request to increase plaintiff's alimony obligation to $16,000 per month based on increased income; (3) granting defendant's request to require plaintiff to pay child support for their minor children consistent with the Child Support Guidelines; (4) granting defendant's request for a discretionary amount of child support above the amount produced in the Guidelines; (5) denying defendant's request to retroactively modify plaintiff's child support obligation to August 3, 2006, the date of the PSA; (6) denying defendant's motion to require plaintiff to provide copies of account statements regarding the $150,000 transfer to defendant; (7) denying defendant's request to require plaintiff to provide defendant with copies of all investment account statements for the last three years; (8) denying defendant's request to reconsider the court's prior denial of counsel fees; (9) denying defendant's request to sanction plaintiff; (10) denying defendant's request for fees and costs associated with this motion; and (11) denying plaintiff's cross-motion for counsel fees.

On August 31, 2007, defendant filed a third post-judgment motion seeking (1) enforcement of the court's July 3, 2007 order, including its retroactive enforcement in the event there was non-compliance; (2) an increase of plaintiff's alimony obligations to allow her to regain the marital standard of living; (3) permission to depose plaintiff as a result of the incomplete and confusing information he provided; (4) payment by plaintiff for his portion of unreimbursed medical expenses in the event they have not yet been paid; (5) plaintiff to bring current all of his child support obligations; (6) plaintiff to provide his business account records for the last eighteen months; and (7) counsel fees and costs associated with the application.

On September 28, 2007, Judge Crook issued an order (1) granting defendant's request to enforce the July 3, 2007 order requiring plaintiff to provide a full and complete CIS; (2) denying defendant's request to increase alimony; (3) denying defendant's request to depose plaintiff; (4) finding moot the issue of retroactive payment; (5) finding moot the issue of plaintiff's obligation for unreimbursed medical expenses; (6) finding moot the issue of plaintiff's unpaid child support expenses; (7) denying defendant's request for plaintiff's previous eighteen months of business account records; and (8) denying defendant's request for counsel fees. The present appeal followed.

On appeal defendant raises the following points:

POINT I.

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY FAILING TO FIND THAT THE PLAINTIFF HAD MISREPRESENTED HIS INCOME AT THE TIME OF THE NEGO[TI]ATIONS OF THE PROPERTY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND THEREFORE IN DE[N]YING THE DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR A ...


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