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Christopher v. Christopher

July 7, 2009

KURT CHRISTOPHER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TARA CHRISTOPHER, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FM-07-1178-05.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 5, 2009

Before Judges Parker, Yannotti and LeWinn.

Plaintiff appeals from several provisions of a final dual judgment of divorce entered by the trial court on July 6, 2007, and amended on July 17, 2007. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part, reverse in part and remand for further proceedings.

I.

Plaintiff and defendant met in 1995. They became engaged to be married in that year and began to reside together in plaintiff's apartment in New York City. The parties were married on July 20, 1996. Plaintiff is a physician, who practices in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. Defendant is a college graduate who has worked as a personal trainer. The parties have three children: a daughter, born in 1999; a son, born in 2001; and a son born in 2002. They resided in a home in South Orange that they purchased in February 2000.

The parties separated in November of 2004, after defendant obtained a temporary domestic violence restraining order against plaintiff. Plaintiff filed his complaint for divorce on December 3, 2004, and defendant filed her counterclaim in January, 2005. Trial in the matter was held on various dates between February 2006 and December 2006.

On July 6, 2007, the trial court issued a comprehensive written opinion, in which the court: granted the parties a dual judgment of divorce; equitably distributed the marital property; established plaintiff's obligation for child support in the amount of $63,281 per year; awarded defendant permanent alimony of $200,000 per year; designated defendant as the parent of primary responsibility; granted plaintiff parenting time; required plaintiff to contribute to the child's "camp [and] special educational needs" expenses; and awarded defendant attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $238,813. The court required plaintiff to pay expert fees of $20,000. The judgment was amended on July 17, 2007, to include more detailed instructions for payment of plaintiff's child support obligation.

In his appeal, plaintiff raises the following issues for our consideration:

POINT I

THE TRIAL COURT INCORRECTLY VALUED PLAINTIFF'S INTEREST IN HIS MEDICAL PRACTICE FOR EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION PURPOSES.

POINT II

THE COURT ERRONEOUSLY AWARDED PERMANENT ALIMONY TO DEFENDANT AFTER AN [EIGHT AND ONE-HALF] YEAR SHORT-TERM MARRIAGE.

A[.] Dependent Spouse's Inability To Sustain The Marital Lifestyle Indefinitely Does Not Support A Permanent Alimony Award.

[B.] The Length Of The Marriage Should Not Include [The] Period While The Parties Were Dating.

[C.] The Trial Court Erred In The Amount Of Alimony Awarded.

POINT III

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WITH RESPECT TO THE AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT AWARDED AS WELL AS THE ALLOCATION OF THE CHILDREN'S EXPENSES.

POINT IV

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN AWARDING DEFENDANT SOLE LEGAL CUSTODY OF THE CHILDREN AND NOT ORDERING MID-WEEK OVERNIGHT PARENTING TIME TO PLAINTIFF.

POINT V

THE TRIAL COURT WAS IN ERROR IN ITS EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION AWARD IN NOT TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION THE PLAINTIFF'S PREMARITAL PROPERTY.

POINT VI

THE TRIAL COURT WAS IN ERROR IN ALLOCATING SOLELY TO THE PLAINTIFF CERTAIN DEBTS, INCLUDING CREDIT CARD ...


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