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Robert J. Mcguirk v. Michelle Lynn Mcguirk

June 29, 2011


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FM-14-209-10.

Per curiam.


Submitted June 7, 2011 - Decided

Before Judges Messano andWaugh.

Defendant Michelle Lynn McGuirk appeals the order of the Family Part denying her motion for a reduction in the amount of child support payable to plaintiff Robert J. McGuirk.*fn1

The parties were married on June 11, 2000, and had two sons, born in March 2004 and January 2008, respectively. Due to irreconcilable differences, they divorced on October 8, 2009. The final judgment of divorce (JOD) incorporated a property settlement agreement (PSA) reached in July 2009.

Robert was a taxation director at Quest Diagnostics at the time of the divorce, earning approximately $280,000 per year in income and bonuses. Michelle was a director of credit risk management at Swiss Reinsurance Company (Swiss Re), and had earned approximately $260,000 per year in income and bonuses in the two years preceding the divorce. Based on the length of the marriage and the parties' individual earning capacities, they waived their respective rights to alimony. They evenly divided the proceeds of all jointly-held checking and savings accounts, and waived claim to any retirement funds, employment-related stock options, or deferred accounts acquired during the marriage.

Robert and Michelle shared joint legal custody of the two children, with Robert designated as the parent of primary residence. Michelle was to have overnight visits with the children on alternate weekends, amounting to fifty-two overnights per year, in addition to assigned holidays, summer parenting time, and two mid-week dinners every week.

Robert agreed to maintain medical insurance for the children, with the understanding that the cost of insurance would be incorporated into the calculation of Michelle's child support obligation. The parties were to be "equally responsible for any uninsured medical, dental, eyecare or prescription drug or other medically related expenses for the benefit of the children." The parties acknowledged that both minors required daycare because Robert and Michelle worked on a full-time basis, and consented to share daycare costs. Paragraph fifteen of the PSA obligated each of them to maintain life insurance policies in the amount of $500,000 for the benefit of the children for a period of twenty years following the date of the PSA.

For child support purposes, the PSA attributed base annual incomes of $208,000 to Robert and $185,000 to Michelle. There was a dispute as to whether a child support worksheet was attached to the PSA or the JOD. Neither document makes reference to such an attachment, although the PSA does refer to the guidelines. Michelle's appendix contains a copy of the PSA without a worksheet, whereas Robert's contains a copy of the PSA with an incomplete worksheet. In any event, the PSA specifically required Michelle to pay $297 per week in child support to Robert.

On July 30, 2010, Michelle filed a motion seeking, among other things, to (1) decrease her child support; (2) reduce her share of the child care costs; (3) revise her mid-week parenting schedule from two dinners to one; and (4) obtain repayment from Robert for alleged overpayments in child support.

Michelle premised her request for a reduction in support on an assertion that she was "terminated" by Swiss Re on July 7, 2010, and was relying exclusively on unemployment benefits because her employer did not provide her with severance pay. Michelle subsequently clarified her assertion, relating that Swiss Re had terminated her position and "offered her the choice to quit or take a demotion, and then claimed a Code of Conduct violation" to discharge her. Neither party provided any additional information regarding the circumstances of her discharge.

Michelle argued that the loss of her job represented a material change of circumstances warranting a reduction in support. She outlined her unsuccessful job search efforts. She also relied on a letter, issued by an organization of financial service professionals to its members, that generally asserted that many in the financial services industry were facing "unprecedented challenges" and that many of its members were unemployed or underemployed.

Michelle premised her claim that she had overpaid child support on three grounds. First, she claimed that the support amount set forth in the PSA did not accurately reflect her parenting time. Second, Michelle argued that her child support obligation was mathematically incorrect because it purportedly represented forty-nine percent of the basic child support amount instead of forty-seven percent, which she maintained was the correct calculation. Finally, Michelle claimed that she was entitled to repayment of $188 in ...

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