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Gorman v. Cruz

November 18, 2009

MARILYN GORMAN F/K/A MARILYN CRUZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LUIS CRUZ, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, FM-16-703-05.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 22, 2009

Before Judges Wefing, Grall and LeWinn.

Plaintiff Marilyn Gorman, formerly known as Marilyn Cruz, and defendant Luis Cruz were divorced in 2005. Plaintiff appeals from orders entered on her post-judgment motion to enforce their settlement agreement and her motion for reconsideration. She challenges the court's modification of defendant's obligation to maintain life insurance for the benefit of their children, the denial of her request to compel her former husband to contribute to their eldest daughter's post-high school education and the counsel fees plaintiff incurred on the motions. Because the court's determinations are not supported by the record and inconsistent with a reasonable interpretation of the parties' agreement and the relevant legal principles, we reverse.

The parties were married in 1987, and their children were born in 1988 and 1993. The final judgment entered in 2005 incorporates their settlement agreement. It provides for plaintiff to serve as the children's primary residential custodian and defendant to pay child support until emancipation. The agreement also requires defendant to provide medical insurance for his children that is available through his employment and to pay two-thirds of the children's uncovered medical, optical, dental and pharmaceutical costs. The parties also agreed to "pay for the college educations of the children in accordance with their abilities at the time those expenses are incurred."

Paragraph 2.6 of their agreement includes this definition of "emancipation":

(a) The completion of the child's formal education on a matriculated basis, whether she/he graduates from a four year undergraduate school, college, university or technical school, it being understood that so long as the child is diligently pursuing a formal education through a four-year full time undergraduate college education and obtaining passing grades, the child shall not be considered emancipated. In no event shall child support continue for the child beyond that child attaining the age of 23 years;

(b) Upon completion of any of the aforesaid segments of the child's education and upon failure to commence the next segment of her education, or upon leaving school, the child shall be deemed emancipated unless failure to continue on with her education as a result from injury or illness or some other cause beyond the child's control;

....

(e) The child obtaining full-time employment in lieu of a full-time formal college education; and

(f) Any other "emancipating" events, as defined by applicable statute and case law.

In addition to his agreement on support, defendant assumed two obligations to maintain life insurance. Despite a mutual waiver of alimony, he agreed to maintain a life insurance policy in the amount of $200,000 naming plaintiff as the primary beneficiary. And without regard to emancipation of either child or his support obligation, defendant agreed to designate their children as the primary beneficiaries on his "retirement system life insurance policy while he is active...."

The parties' eldest daughter was about seventeen years of age at the time of her parents' divorce in 2005. In June 2006, when she was eighteen years old, she enrolled in the ...


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