On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-2192-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Rodriguez, Grall and LeWinn.
Plaintiff Emi Okoshi appeals from a post-judgment order that terminates defendant Roland Wilson's alimony obligation based on her cohabitation and requires Wilson to contribute $2000 per semester to their daughter's college expenses commencing in Fall 2009.*fn1 We reverse the order terminating alimony because the judge did not address the permanency, stability and economic impact of the relationship between Okoshi and her alleged cohabitant, and we remand for correction of the effective date of Wilson's obligation for college expenses because the judge was mistaken about the daughter's enrollment date.
The parties married on May 20, 1989, and they have one child, a daughter born in June 1990. As early as 1991, Okoshi complained of domestic violence. In August of that year, she obtained a final restraining order, but the order was dismissed on her application in March 1995. In March 2004, Okoshi obtained a second restraining order on a complaint alleging assault and harassment. Her allegations included a claim that Wilson had injured their daughter, and the restraining order permitted Wilson to visit the then thirteen-year-old child under supervision of his sister. Okoshi filed a complaint for divorce in April 2004, and the matter was tried to the court.
Under the final judgment and an amendment to the restraining order, entered in June 2005, Okoshi has sole legal and residential custody of the child; Wilson and his daughter were to attend therapy prior to his visiting or contacting her; and Wilson was obligated to pay $155 child support and $450 alimony per week.
Between entry of the judgment of divorce and the post-judgment motions at issue here, Okoshi filed several motions to enforce the judgment and the restraining order. The restraining order was amended to prohibit Wilson from visiting their daughter's middle and high schools; and Wilson was ordered to remove a letter to his daughter that he had posted on a website. In addition, Wilson was charged with and found guilty of violating the restraining order and, as a consequence, placed on probation.
The motions that gave rise to this appeal were filed in July 2008. Okoshi moved to enforce the final judgment and compel Wilson to contribute to their daughter's college expenses, and Wilson filed a cross-motion to terminate alimony. A plenary hearing was held, and thereafter the judge entered the order challenged here.
Okoshi and Wilson both have college degrees. Okoshi graduated from Tokyo University and Wilson from the Berklee School of Music. Wilson is a self-taught computer programmer and has been employed in that field and as a photographer.
Wilson earns significantly more than Okoshi. In 2006, he earned $135,441 and in 2007 he earned $164,164. Although he has been laid off, the judge found that his unemployment is temporary and Wilson does not dispute that determination. In contrast, Okoshi is employed as a teacher's aide in the Glen Rock Public School System. She earned $23,636 from that job in 2008. With her alimony of $22,500 and some money she earns occasionally assisting autistic children, her total income in 2008 was $47,791.
Wilson's request to terminate alimony was not based on a change in the parties' relative need and ability to pay. He had evidence establishing that Okoshi and a real-estate investor, Steven Macy, use the same address for voter registration - a three-bedroom apartment in a doorman building on New York City's Upper East Side.
Okoshi admitted that she and Macy have lived at the same address since July 2008, but testified that they are landlord and tenant, not cohabitants. According to Okoshi, she and Macy met at a soup kitchen where they both volunteered. Okoshi had told the nun in charge that she needed a place to stay, and the nun told her that Macy needed someone to house sit for him.
According to Okoshi, she wanted a new place to live because Wilson knew her address in New Jersey, and she wanted to live closer to her daughter, who ...