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Cheryl Bogdan v. Joseph Bogdan

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


May 10, 2011

CHERYL BOGDAN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSEPH BOGDAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-1261-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 13, 2011

Before Judges Axelrad, Lihotz, and J. N. Harris.

Defendant Joseph Bogdan appeals from the June 26, 2009 dual final judgment of divorce that awarded plaintiff Cheryl Bogdan alimony, child support, and equitable distribution. Because we find that the Family Part accurately applied the appropriate law to amply-supported facts, and exercised conscientious discretion overall, we affirm.

I.

A.

The parties were married on August 25, 1990. Two daughters, now thirteen and eighteen-years old, were born of their union. The parties separated in June 2007, but continued to reside in the same municipality.

Both parties earned bachelor's degrees in accounting from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mrs. Bogdan graduated in 1988, and thereafter was hired to perform bookkeeping and clerical services for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (the NJSEA). She attempted the CPA examination once, but did not pass any of its component parts. In her first full year of post-college employment, she earned $22,440.

Mrs. Bogdan left her employment with the NJSEA in October 1992, due to pregnancy complications with her first child. According to Mrs. Bogdan's social security statement, she earned $25,954 in 1992. After the child was born in 1993, the parties decided that Mrs. Bogdan would be a stay-at-home mother for the foreseeable future, which lasted approximately thirteen years.

Mrs. Bogdan reentered the workforce in 2006, when she earned approximately $12,000 as a teacher's aide at a parochial school. Working full-time at the school thereafter, Mrs. Bogdan earned $14,200 and $17,204 in 2007 and 2008 respectively. For the 2008-2009 school year, Mrs. Bogdan's salary was $17,510.

Mrs. Bogdan testified that she intended to attend Felician College to earn a master's degree in education and teaching in order to transition from teacher's aide to a teacher. She estimated that the advanced degree would take approximately two years to complete and cost $30,000. She further estimated that she would be able to earn approximately $40,000 per year as an entry-level public school teacher after earning her degree.

During trial, Mr. Bogdan presented occupational employment statistical data to show that his wife was underemployed and capable of earning a much higher income -- approximately $70,000 -- because of her accounting degree. Mrs. Bogdan countered with data suggesting that the annual salary for a job similar to the one she left in 1993 was approximately $30,000. However, she testified that she did not feel she would be capable of earning even that salary because she had been out of the field for so long and did not have knowledge of the current accounting programs or computer skills.

The parties purchased a four-bedroom residence in Wallington in May 1995, which was underwritten with a purchase money mortgage of $57,000 from Spencer Savings Bank. At the time of trial, the property was not encumbered with any mortgages. In June 1995, the parties borrowed $40,000 from Mr. Bogdan's parents and an additional $50,000 from Mr. Bogdan's aunt. Both loans were memorialized by written promissory notes payable on demand, with interest at six percent per year. In similar fashion, in October 1996, the parties borrowed an additional $40,000 from Mr. Bogdan's aunt at an interest rate of five percent per year. None of these loans was secured by a mortgage. Several years later, in February 2006, the parties borrowed $50,000 from Mr. Bogdan's parents.

According to Mr. Bogdan, who aggregated all of the family indebtedness, the net amount outstanding (including accrued interest) on all of the unpaid loans, as of June 2009, was $215,538.*fn1 Mrs. Bogdan testified that all of the loans had been paid in full.

B.

In December 2007, Mrs. Bogdan filed a complaint for divorce, alleging irreconcilable differences. Mr. Bogdan filed an answer and reciprocal counterclaim on January 15, 2008.

Following discovery, a discontinuous thirteen-day bench trial commenced on January 26, 2009, which lasted for several months. On June 25, 2009, Judge Edward A. Jerejian rendered an oral decision on the record that addressed all of the contested issues.

At the outset of his discussion of alimony and support, Judge Jerejian recognized his obligation to consider the factors articulated in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b). He first found Mrs. Bogdan had a need for support, and Mr. Bogdan had the ability to pay, as his average annual gross salary (including bonuses) for the three years up to the filing of the complaint was $202,000. In taking into account the age and health of the parties, the court found that although Mrs. Bogdan suffered from diabetes and was insulin dependent, she and Mr. Bogdan -- forty-four and forty-three years old respectively -- were both in "relatively good health."

Citing decisional law*fn2 for the proposition that one of the goals of alimony is to "assist the supported spouse in achieving a lifestyle that [is] reasonably comparable to the one enjoyed while living with the supported spouse," the judge embarked upon an analysis of the parties' marital lifestyle. He found the parties' socio-economic status was "one of middle class, the upper middle class," and noted that they had put aside a good deal of money towards savings and had little debt, the children had always attended parochial schools, the parties had purchased a second home, and had also vacationed in places such as Florida and California. Addressing the family's division of labor, the judge found that the parties had a "traditional conservative approach to raising children" where Mrs. Bogdan worked hard while staying home and Mr. Bogdan similarly strived as he advanced his career.

In terms of earning capacity, the judge found that even though the parties had earned the same degree from the same university, Mr. Bogdan's earning capacity had "steadily risen" while Mrs. Bogdan had "virtually no career whatsoever." The judge found that it was "unrealistic" to argue that Mrs. Bogdan could earn $70,000 as soon as she reentered the workforce as an accountant, particularly given how long she had been out of the field and not having the modern skills necessary to do this specialized work. While some statistics were presented with regards to Mrs. Bogdan's earning capacity, the judge noted the absence of expert testimony on her ability to actually re-enter the workforce as an accountant. Also, it was unclear if Mrs. Bogdan would actually be able to successfully return to school for her teaching degree, and then obtain a better-paying teaching position. Based upon his analysis, the judge concluded that there was a "great disparity in the earning capacity, vocational skills[,] and the employability of the parties." In discussing the projected time and expense necessary for Mrs. Bogdan to find appropriate employment, the judge found that regardless of whether she obtained a teaching certification or retrained to become certified as an accountant, considerable time and effort would be expended.

In determining the type of alimony to be awarded, Judge Jerejian held that key factors affecting whether alimony would be permanent or of limited duration are the length of the marriage and economic dependency. Here, finding the marriage was a long-term marriage of seventeen-and-one-half years, and Mrs. Bogdan of limited economic potential, the judge decided it would be "unjust" to award rehabilitative alimony, which he believed "is reserved for short-term marriages," and thus permanent alimony was warranted.

In determining the amount of alimony, the judge declined to impute more than $18,000 income to Mrs. Bogdan because she was actually employed as a teacher's aide, and she was not "at the aspect of her life or her skills to be imputed anything else than what she actually makes." The judge therefore set permanent alimony at $60,000 a year, or $2,307.69 bi-weekly.

In allocating the debts stemming from the family loans, Judge Jerejian analyzed the relevant testimony to determine whether those funds were actually loans, or were either intended to be, or were transformed into, gifts. The judge determined that through several payments, the indebtedness to the aunt had been satisfied. It was found that these sums "cover[ed] the loan" and "it would be unconscionable to hold Mrs. Bogdan obligated for these loans, whatever they may be."

Skeptically addressing the loans from Mr. Bogdan's parents, Judge Jerejian found there had not been a demand for repayment made until after Mrs. Bogdan filed her divorce complaint, and the only evidence that there was ever a demand came from Mr. Bogdan's self-serving assertion on behalf of his parents. The judge expressly invoked his equitable authority and determined that Mrs. Bogdan shall be held harmless by Mr. Bogdan for any claims of indebtedness from his parents and family.

The judge also considered the parties' 2008 federal tax situation. He concluded that it would be "counterproductive" to have Mrs. Bogdan amend her already-filed income tax return and then re-file jointly with Mr. Bogdan to save on taxes. In the interest of keeping "the parties moving forward," the judge held that Mr. Bogdan would have to file separately. However, in the interests of equity, Mr. Bogdan was permitted to claim both of the parties' children as dependents for 2009, and thereafter, each would then claim one child going forward.

The final decision was memorialized in a detailed, forty-one-paragraph dual final judgment of divorce, filed on June 26, 2009. This appeal followed.

II.

Mr. Bogdan's appellate arguments are limited to a handful of specific financial attributes of the divorce: 1) the imputation of Mrs. Bogdan's income;*fn3 2) the nature, amount, and duration of alimony; 3) the allocation of marital debt; 4) the treatment of 2008 income tax returns; and 5) the application of the unclean hands doctrine as triggered by Mrs. Bogdan's putative unauthorized withdrawals from the parties' joint bank accounts. We find that Judge Jerejian's treatment of the issues brought to his attention not only comported with statutory and decisional law, but appropriately resolved the parties' dispute through the proper application of equitable policies and employment of principled discretion.

A.

We begin with well-developed jurisprudence. Family courts have special jurisdiction and expertise in family matters; therefore, appellate courts should accord deference to a family court's fact finding. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 413 (1998); N.H. v. H.H., 418 N.J. Super. 262, 279 (App. Div. 2011). A reviewing court "grant[s] substantial deference to a trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, which will only be disturbed if they are 'manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant and reasonably credible evidence.'" Crespo v. Crespo, 395 N.J. Super. 190, 193-94 (App. Div. 2007) (quoting Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974)). Settled principles provide that we will reverse only when our review unearths findings that "'are so wholly un-supportable as to result in a denial of justice[.]'" Colca v. Anson, 413 N.J. Super. 405, 413 (App. Div. 2010) (quoting Meshinsky v. Nichols Yacht Sales, Inc., 110 N.J. 464, 475 (1988)). On the other hand, we are not obliged to defer to the Family Part's legal analysis, because "a trial judge's interpretation of the law and the legal consequences that flow from established facts" are not entitled to any special deference. Barr v. Barr, 418 N.J.

Super. 18, 31 (App. Div. 2011) (citing Manalapan Realty, L.P. v. Twp. Comm. of Manalapan, 140 N.J. 366, 378 (1995)).

B.

Mr. Bogdan's first criticism of the trial judge concerns the decision to not impute a higher annual income to Mrs. Bogdan. He claims that the judge ignored her ability to earn substantially more than $18,000 per year. In computing alimony or child support, tasks particularly within the Family Part's realm of expertise, "[i]ncome may be imputed to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed." Golian v. Golian, 344 N.J. Super. 337, 341 (App. Div. 2001). "Imputation of income is a discretionary matter not capable of precise or exact determination but rather requiring a trial judge to realistically appraise capacity to earn and job availability." Storey v. Storey, 373 N.J. Super. 464, 474 (App. Div. 2004). In deciding if income should be imputed, the judge must determine "whether the [spouse] has just cause" for remaining voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Caplan v. Caplan, 182 N.J. 250, 268 (2005). In assessing just cause, the judge should assess factors such as the ages of the children and "the reason and intent for the voluntary underemployment or unemployment." Pressler & Verniero, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-A, Comment 12 at 2439 (2011).

In this case, Mrs. Bogdan is arguably underemployed. Nevertheless, despite Mr. Bogdan's assertions that she could earn $70,000 as an accountant based upon statistical exemplars, the trial judge properly considered the fact that she had not worked in the accounting field for sixteen years and her skills were antiquated. Therefore, consonant with Storey, the judge realistically appraised Mrs. Bogdan's job prospects as a forty-four-year-old woman who had been out of the accounting field for more than a decade-and-a-half.

Moreover, although not required to do so, Mr. Bogdan failed to present any expert testimony, such as an employability expert, to opine whether Mrs. Bogdan actually would be able to obtain a job in the accounting field. The judge also considered that while the children are no longer in their tender years, they still need supervision and care, and that responsibility would fall to Mrs. Bogdan as the primary caregiver. We believe that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in declining to impute greater income to Mrs. Bogdan based upon her lengthy absence from the workforce, her childcare responsibilities, and the fact that she is currently employed, albeit not in an income-optimal occupation.

We further note that in imputing income -- as with many of the innumerable financial determinations that must be made in Family Part cases -- we require neither arithmetic precision nor mathematical perfection. All that is required is a full canvass of the competent evidence, a correct application of the relevant law, and an explanation of a legally sound rationale. That was fully accomplished in the admeasurement of Mrs. Bogdan's imputed income in this case.

C.

Mr. Bogdan next argues that the trial judge erred in awarding permanent alimony as opposed to limited or rehabilitative alimony because of Mrs. Bogdan's ability to earn, her age, and her capacity to improve her education. We are unpersuaded that reversible error infected the decision regarding alimony because from our review of the record, it is clear that Judge Jerejian faithfully applied the appropriate factors in assessing the nature and amount of alimony.

A Family Part judge has broad, but not unlimited, discretion in awarding alimony. The judge's discretion must be channeled to take into account the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) and decisional law defining the purposes of alimony. Steneken v. Steneken, 367 N.J. Super. 427, 434 (App. Div. 2004), aff'd as modified, 183 N.J. 290 (2005). An alimony determination will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Ibid.

N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) sets forth the guidelines and objective standards that apply when determining an alimony award. The court shall consider the following:

(1) The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;

(2) The duration of the marriage or civil union;

(3) The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;

(4) The standard of living established in the marriage or civil union and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living;

(5) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;

(6) The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;

(7) The parental responsibilities for the children;

(8) The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, . . .;

(9) The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage or civil union by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;

(10) The equitable distribution of property ordered . . . ;

(11) The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;

(12) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, . . . ;

(13) Any other factors which the court may deem relevant. [N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b).]

Furthermore, the statute requires that the court "make specific findings on the evidence about the above factors[,]" when "there is a request for an award of permanent alimony." N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(c). If the court determines that permanent alimony is not warranted, the court shall consider whether limited, rehabilitative, or reimbursement alimony is appropriate. Ibid.

"Limited duration alimony is to be awarded in recognition of a dependent spouse's contributions to a relatively short-term marriage[.] . . . All other statutory factors being in equipoise, the duration of the marriage marks the defining distinction between whether permanent or limited duration alimony is warranted and awarded." Cox v. Cox, 335 N.J. Super. 465, 483 (App. Div. 2000). The key distinction between permanent alimony and limited duration alimony is that limited duration alimony should be awarded where "the length of the marriage does not warrant permanent support." Gordon v. Rozenwald, 380 N.J. Super. 55, 66 (App. Div. 2005). Limited duration alimony is not to be awarded "as a substitute for permanent alimony in those cases where permanent alimony would otherwise be awarded." N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(c).

In Cox, the trial court's award of limited duration alimony was erroneous because the marriage was twenty-two years, therefore permanent alimony was proper. Cox, supra, 335 N.J. Super. at 483-85; see also, Robertson v. Robertson, 381 N.J. Super. 199, 206-07 (App. Div. 2005) (permanent alimony appropriate after eleven-year marriage); Hughes v. Hughes, 311 N.J. Super. 15, 31 (App. Div. 1998) (ten-year marriage not a short-term marriage for purposes of limited duration alimony); contra Gonzalez-Posse v. Ricciardulli, 410 N.J. Super. 340, 353 (App. Div. 2009) (ten-year marriage warranted limited duration alimony).

Here, it is clear that limited duration alimony was not appropriate because the parties' marriage lasted seventeen years. Under the applicable case law, this was a long-term marriage warranting permanent alimony. Judge Jerejian carefully considered the applicable law on limited duration alimony and properly concluded that it would be unjust to treat this marriage as a short-term marriage, for which limited duration alimony is reserved. The judge's decision is consistent with the applicable law and does not evince an abuse of discretion.

"'[R]ehabilitative' alimony is alimony payable for a terminable period of time when it is reasonably anticipated that a spouse will no longer need support." Dotsko v. Dotsko, 244 N.J. Super. 668, 677 (App. Div. 1990). "[A] rehabilitative alimony award is intended to 'enable [the] former spouse to complete the preparation necessary for economic self-sufficiency.'" Crews v. Crews, 164 N.J. 11, 34 (2000), (alteration in original) (quoting Hill v. Hill, 91 N.J. 506, 509 (1982)). "Rehabilitative alimony is an appropriate consideration in instances in which the marriage is relatively short and the recipient spouse is capable of full employment based on experience, additional training or further education." Heinl v. Heinl, 287 N.J. Super. 337, 348 (App. Div. 1996); see also Mishlen v. Mishlen, 305 N.J. Super. 643, 650 (App. Div. 1997) (rehabilitative alimony appropriate where marriage lasted eight years and wife was thirty-four at time of divorce).

Rehabilitative alimony is not appropriate where the supported spouse does not have realistic employment prospects, "especially at a level which would allow her to replicate the [marital] lifestyle." McGee v. McGee, 277 N.J. Super. 1, 14-15 (App. Div. 1994); see also Milner v. Milner, 288 N.J. Super. 209, 215 (App. Div. 1996). Moreover, "[i]t is not to be considered an exclusive remedy," rather it is to be used in conjunction with some other form of alimony. Cox, supra, 335 N.J. Super. at 475; see also Hughes, supra, 311 N.J. Super. at 32.

The parties' marriage was long-term as it lasted seventeen years, and thus is not one to which rehabilitative alimony would be clearly applicable under Heinl. Considering that Mrs. Bogdan never worked as an accountant, Mr. Bogdan's assertion that she could earn approximately $70,000 a year as a CPA is both "impractical and unfair." See Cerminara v. Cerminara, 286 N.J. Super. 448, 461 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 144 N.J. 376 (1996). As essentially determined by Judge Jerejian, Mrs. Bogdan "is not trained to do anything in today's" accounting world. McGee, supra, 277 N.J. Super. at 14. Furthermore, given her prolonged absence from the workplace, it is entirely unclear if she will ever be able to attain a level of economic self-sufficiency consistent with the marital lifestyle under McGee. These factors show that rehabilitative alimony was not clearly warranted, and the court did not abuse its discretion in electing to award permanent alimony as opposed to rehabilitative.

D.

Mr. Bogdan next advances the claim that the trial court's failure to hold his wife responsible for some of the debts owed to his family constitutes reversible error. In addition to an award of alimony or child support, the court may "make such award . . . to effectuate an equitable distribution of the property, both real and personal, which was legally and beneficially acquired by them or either of them during the marriage." N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(h). Once the trial court identifies the marital property subject to equitable distribution, the court should then consider the factors outlined in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1.

In dividing marital assets the court must generally "take into account the liabilities as well as the assets of the parties. In other words, if the assets are to be divided between the parties, the debts incurred in obtaining those assets should likewise be allocated between the parties." Monte v. Monte, 212 N.J. Super. 557, 567 (App. Div. 1986) (citation omitted). However, the court is not necessarily required "to divide the assets of the parties equally without requiring them to share the debts" as "it may not be an abuse of judicial discretion to do so." Ibid. In Monte, the loans at issue were from the husband's family. Id. at 562-63. While the court ultimately found the trial record inadequate to determine whether the court correctly allocated the debt solely to the husband, it held that the spouse seeking to divide responsibility for repayment of a familial loan has the burden of establishing a bona fide obligation to repay. Id. at 567.

In this case, Judge Jerejian clearly found that Mr. Bogdan had failed to prove that the money received from his parents was indeed a bona fide debt, noting that no demand for payment had ever been made until the divorce complaint was filed. As the court properly recognized, there was no testimony from anyone other than Mr. Bogdan that collection of the note was actually undertaken, and there had been no activity regarding those funds for at least ten years, essentially depriving enforcement of the note by operation of statute. See N.J.S.A. 12A:3-118(b) (providing that in the case of a demand obligation, "[i]f no demand for payment is made to the maker, an action to enforce the note is barred if neither principal nor interest on the note has been paid for a continuous period of [ten] years.") The judge's conclusion was clearly rooted in his "feel of the case" and does not demonstrate an abuse of discretion. See N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. E.P., 196 N.J. 88, 104 (2008) (holding the family judge's "feel of the case" is given deference on appeal).

E.

Mr. Bogdan's penultimate argument asserts that the trial court's refusal to require both parties to re-file their 2008 taxes in order to maximize tax benefits was in error. Aside from his assertions that Mrs. Bogdan wrongfully withheld information he needed to file his tax return, and refused to file jointly so he incurred an additional tax liability of $8,000, Mr. Bogdan cites no authority in his appellate presentation for his challenge to the exercise of the trial court's discretion. Where an issue is not briefed beyond the "conclusionary statement of the brief writer" it will not be considered. Miller v. Reis, 189 N.J. Super. 437, 441 (App. Div. 1983). Nevertheless, we will briefly address the claim.

Trial courts do "have discretionary authority to compel parties in divorce proceedings to file joint tax returns," depending upon the specific facts of a given case. Bursztyn v. Bursztyn, 379 N.J. Super. 385, 398 (App. Div. 2005). However, "compelling parties to execute joint tax returns" should be avoided "because of the potential liability to which the parties would be exposed, and because there generally exists a means by which to compensate the parties for the adverse tax consequences of filing separately." Ibid.; see also Wadlow v. Wadlow, 200 N.J. Super. 372, 379-80 (App. Div. 1985) (recognizing that while filing joint returns may result in substantial tax savings the trial judge's refusal to order the parties to file a joint return was not an abuse of discretion).

Here, the court exercised its discretionary power in declining to have Mrs. Bogdan re-file her 2008 tax return in order to supposedly minimize the parties' tax exposure. The court was able to compensate Mr. Bogdan, in part, for the claimed adverse tax consequences by ordering that he be entitled to claim both of the parties' children as dependents in 2009 for income tax purposes. The court clearly adhered to the mandate of Bursztyn that compelling the parties to file joint tax returns should be avoided and, without the need for audit-like accuracy, mitigated a detrimental effect through the 2009 tax advantage he conferred upon Mr. Bogdan. Accordingly, the court did not abuse its discretion and Mr. Bogdan's claim is without merit.

F.

Mr. Bogdan's final argument urges us to apply his newly-minted equitable defense of unclean hands in deciding this appeal. This claim was never addressed by the trial court, because it was not raised in the Family Part. Accordingly, the argument should not be considered on appeal as "appellate courts will decline to consider questions or issues not properly presented to the trial court when an opportunity for such a presentation is available 'unless the questions so raised on appeal go to the jurisdiction of the trial court or concern matters of great public interest.'" Nieder v. Royal Indem. Ins. Co., 62 N.J. 229, 234 (1973) (quoting Reynolds Offset Co., Inc. v. Summer, 58 N.J. Super. 542, 548 (App. Div. 1959), certif. denied, 31 N.J. 554 (1960)). Neither exception to the rule applies here, yet we elect to dispose of the issue in a few words.

The doctrine of unclean hands is applicable to matrimonial cases, and application is "discretionary on the part of a court." Heuer v. Heuer, 152 N.J. 226, 238 (1998). "The basic equitable maxim of unclean hands provides that '[a] suitor in equity must come into court with clean hands and . . . must keep them clean after his entry and throughout the proceedings.'" Chrisomalis v. Chrisomalis, 260 N.J. Super. 50, 53-54 (App. Div. 1992) (alterations in original) (quoting A. Hollander & Son, Inc. v. Imperial Fur Blending Corp., 2 N.J. 235, 246 (1949)). "In simple parlance, it merely gives expression to the equitable principle that a court should not grant relief to one who is a wrongdoer with respect to the subject matter in suit." Faustin v. Lewis, 85 N.J. 507, 511 (1981). Furthermore, courts have adhered to the admonition, "'he who seeks equity must do equity.'" Thompson v. City of Atl. City, 190 N.J. 359, 384 (2007) (quoting Ryan v. Motor Credit Co., 132 N.J. Eq. 398 (E. & A. 1942)).

Mr. Bogdan vaguely argues that Mrs. Bogdan's conduct throughout the marriage amounted to unclean hands, such as her assertions that he controlled the family finances, which was contradicted by bank withdrawal slips filled out by her. It is largely impossible, based upon stray references in the record, to ascertain whether either or both of the parties engaged in less-than-stellar behavior. This is the result of Mr. Bogdan not expressly raising this issue with the trial court, enabling it to make factual findings with respect to this claim. To the extent we are able to make an assessment of Mr. Bogdan's claim, however, we find it entirely unpersuasive, lacking in merit, and not worthy of further discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).

Affirmed.


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