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Lidon v. Lidon

December 28, 2009


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FM-14-519-97.

Per curiam.


Submitted November 2, 2009

Before Judges Baxter and Alvarez.

Defendant Jean Lidon appeals the November 5, 2008 order reducing child support payable to her on account of one child and requiring her to make college education contributions on behalf of a second child. Additionally, defendant appeals the January 27, 2009 denial of her subsequent application for reconsideration. We affirm.

The parties, both of whom are attorneys and appear pro se, divorced on November 4, 1997. Pursuant to the divorce decree, the two children born of the marriage resided with defendant.

Some additional context is necessary before our discussion of defendant's claims of error. On April 19, 2005, plaintiff James Lidon was ordered to pay defendant $337 per week in child support. This amount, a reduction from the prior order, resulted from the court's finding that defendant was voluntarily underemployed and its decision to impute income to defendant of $100,000 annually "in light of [her] education and many years of experience as an attorney."

The April 19, 2005 order for $337 weekly was in effect in July 2008, when plaintiff filed a motion seeking to terminate child support attributable for the parties' oldest child, a son, who had not lived with defendant since mid-August 2007. Plaintiff also sought sole custody of that child, sanctions against defendant for her failure to inform him of the child's whereabouts when his change of residence occurred, and contribution by defendant towards the child's college education at Lehigh University.

As a result of the July 2008 motion, the court entered an order on November 5, 2008: granting plaintiff custody of the oldest child; denying retroactive modification of child support; imposing economic sanctions on defendant in the amount of $3120 for her failure to disclose the child's whereabouts; quashing a subpoena defendant served upon plaintiff's employer; reducing child support to $50 weekly support for the daughter remaining in defendant's custody retroactive to July 22, 2008; requiring defendant to release documents necessary for financial aid applications to the Lehigh financial aid office; requiring plaintiff to take "all necessary steps to apply for any and all financial aid for which" the oldest child would be eligible; requiring plaintiff to pay fifty-eight percent of the oldest child's college expenses and defendant to pay forty-two percent directly to the college; denying defendant's request that plaintiff pay $10,000 for unreimbursed medical expenses; denying defendant's request that the court impose a sanction of $10,000 on plaintiff "for his alleged failure to exercise parenting time" over the years; and denying defendant's request that plaintiff pay $20,000 for a Ford Explorer which she purchased for the parties' son prior to his departure from her home. Other relief was awarded not relevant to the disposition of the issues raised in this appeal.

Thereafter defendant sought reconsideration of the November order. She alleged changed circumstances because of a temporary disability, and because the value of her stock portfolio had significantly declined due to market conditions. Reconsideration was denied on January 27, 2009.

Defendant evicted the parties' son from her home in August 2007, shortly before his senior year in high school, due to his drug and alcohol use. Somehow plaintiff did not discover this change until the spring of 2008, when his son called and told him he no longer lived with defendant. After being evicted, the son lived briefly with a friend and in his car. Eventually, he moved to the home of defendant's former boyfriend where he remained through June 14, 2008, so that he could complete his senior year at the same high school. The child moved in with his father after graduation. He commenced undergraduate studies at Lehigh in the fall of 2008.

Defendant's engineering degree is from Lehigh; even now she has some familial connection with the school. Her law degree is from Duke University and she has worked at private law firms earning significant income over the years. Although she has not remained at any position since the divorce for longer than three years, she earned an annual base salary at her last job of $127,600 exclusive of an $11,000 bonus. She was paid $62,000 upon her departure, which the motion court treated as severance pay. Defendant asserts the money was actually a settlement for "improperly withheld vested 401K funds, sexual harassment and wrongful discharge claims." As of December 2007, defendant was supportive of her son's application to Lehigh, and had emailed plaintiff about the percentage of college expenses he was planning to contribute because she could not pay for their son's college education on her own.

Defendant raises the following points in ...

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