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Rachna Singh v. Sandeep Saini

April 19, 2011

RACHNA SINGH, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
SANDEEP SAINI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FM-12-1816-09E.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued Telephonically January 18, 2011

Before Judges Lisa and Alvarez.

Defendant Sandeep Saini appeals from the alimony provisions included in an April 20, 2010 amended judgment of divorce. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

Defendant and plaintiff Rachna Singh married on February 4, 1996; they have two children, ages eleven and five. The complaint for divorce was filed March 31, 2009.

Both parties are college graduates. Defendant, who obtained a Master's Degree in Business Administration from Rutgers University, is employed by Merrill Lynch in information technology. He earns $165,000 annually in base salary, along with yearly bonuses worth approximately $35,000 consisting of cash and restricted stock. Plaintiff is a certified nutritionist who worked full-time until prior to the birth of her second child in June 2006. Thereafter she has worked part-time, between two and four days per week, and earns a current annual salary of approximately $21,000.

The divorce judgment requires defendant to pay plaintiff $49,240 in alimony, and thirty percent of his bonuses, per year, in addition to specified child support. In calculating the award, the trial judge considered the significant disparity in income between the parties and the length of the marriage. He also took into account that because of child care responsibilities, "plaintiff has given up and has sort of stepped back [in] her career, if you will[,] as a result of her obligations at home." The judge expressly noted, however, that given the parties' relative youth, the alimony award would be limited to a term of fourteen years, at which time the parties' youngest child would turn eighteen and begin college.

The judge added the following:

[I] am going to allow the husband to revisit [alimony] as soon as [the youngest child] starts . . . [k]indergarten in 2011. But until that time I'm not going to compel a change in the daily lifestyle. . .

Now, as I said, when [the youngest child] starts school what would be reasonable to expect for working is, it may change, so at that time if the parties can't come to an agreement as to an adjustment at that point, I would permit that the judgment will provide that the defendant can file a motion for change of circumstances based on [the youngest child] starting school. I would indicate I asked the plaintiff whether kindergarten in South Brunswick was full day or part day, and she told me it was full day.

Defendant now appeals, asserting the amount of the trial judge's alimony award and the number of years over which it would be paid was reversible error because the court did not "consider relevant factors and/or failed to support its award with sufficient factual findings and legal conclusions." Defendant also asserts that the judge erred in the factual findings that were made, did not adequately explain the basis for his decision, and did not engage in necessary statutory analysis. See Innes v. Innes, 117 N.J. 496, 504 (1990).

We begin by noting the special deference accorded to the factual findings of a judge of the Family Part. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 412-13 (1998). We disturb such determinations only where the trier of fact has not considered applicable statutory standards or judicial precedents implicated by the evidence. Caplan v. Caplan, 182 N.J. 250, 267-71 (2005). Generally, arrangements regarding alimony are left to the sound discretion of the trial court. Larbig v. Larbig, 384 N.J. Super. 17, 21 (App. Div. ...


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