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Czinn v. Czinn

November 16, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FM-20-356-06B.

Per curiam.


Submitted October 19, 2010

Before Judges Skillman and Yannotti.

Plaintiff Doreen Czinn appeals from provisions of an order entered by the Family Part on June 24, 2009, which denied her motion to enforce litigant's rights. Defendant Harry Czinn cross-appeals from provisions of the June 24, 2009 order denying his cross-motion for imposition of sanctions against plaintiff and her attorney. For the reasons that follow, we affirm on the appeal and the cross-appeal.


This matter arises from the following facts. Plaintiff filed an action for divorce on September 7, 2005, seeking dissolution of the parties' marriage which occurred on May 29, 1988. The court entered a consent judgment dated May 25, 2007, which resolved many of the issues in dispute between the parties. Thereafter, the parties resolved the remaining contested issues and executed a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) dated October 16, 2007, which was incorporated in the final judgment of divorce of the same date.

Section 4.5 of the PSA, which is entitled "Retirement Plans," is part of the agreement dealing with equitable distribution of the marital property. Section 4.5 states:

Husband represents that he has a retirement pension plan with his current employer. Wife shall receive 45% of the marital share of Husband's pension in this regard acquired from the date of the parties' marriage to the date of complaint, adjusted for COLA and market forces as of the date of distribution as may be provided for in the plan. Within 7 days of this agreement, Husband shall designate Wife for any and all survivorship benefits as may be provided for in the plan on her share as Husband represents that his plan provides for same. Within 7 days of this agreement, Husband shall execute an authorization for Wife to contact Husband's employer to ensure that such survivorship benefits are in effect as represented by Husband. Given Husband's representation in this regard, he shall not be required to carry life insurance to secure Wife's benefit in this regard.

Husband's pension shall be distributed by QDRO [Qualified Domestic Relations Order] or DRO [Domestic Relations Order] prepared by Wife's attorney. The costs of same shall be equally shared by the parties. Husband shall cooperate with the preparation of same in all respects, and shall respond to any requests for review of the QDRO or DRO or information regarding the QDRO within 7 days of the request.

Defendant has been employed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) since 1978. He is a member of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). On October 19, 2007, defendant designated plaintiff "as a primary beneficiary for her 45% marital share (approximately 28% of the total) of the Ordinary Death Benefit, or pre-retirement survivorship benefit" available under the NYSLRS. On that same date, defendant authorized plaintiff to contact the PANYNJ to confirm her designation as a beneficiary of this death benefit.

Thereafter, a dispute arose between the parties concerning the meaning of section 4.5 of the PSA. On September 30, 2008, plaintiff filed a motion to enforce litigant's rights and for other relief. In her supporting certification, plaintiff stated that section 4.5 required defendant to select a survivorship option, under which the amount of the defendant's pension payments would be reduced but plaintiff would continue to receive her share of the pension payments should defendant die before she does. Plaintiff sought an order requiring defendant to enter into a DRO that would require him to select this survivorship option for his pension payments. She also sought an order requiring defendant to purchase $360,000 in life insurance for his accidental death, and to amend the final judgment to change her name.

Defendant opposed plaintiff's motion and filed a cross-motion seeking an order permitting him to execute a DRO that allowed him to select an option for pension payments of his choice, specifically the "Single Life" option, under which defendant would receive the highest amount of pension payments available and plaintiff would receive a share of those payments, but the payments would cease upon defendant's death. Defendant also sought an order imposing sanctions upon plaintiff for submitting an allegedly false certification, and upon plaintiff's attorney for allegedly misrepresenting the terms of the PSA. Defendant, who appeared pro se, additionally sought an award against plaintiff to compensate him for the time he had devoted to this dispute and for his pain and suffering.

The court considered the motions on October 24, 2008. The court entered a consent order that day permitting plaintiff to change her name. Thereafter, the court received additional submissions from the parties and on ...

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