July 1, 2011
KATHY A. TULLY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
THOMAS P. TULLY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FM-12-2377-09-X. Pomper & Associates, attorneys for appellant (Janna M. Chernetz and Kourtney A. Borchers, on the briefs).
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted June 23, 2011 - Decided
Before Judges Fisher andGrall.
Defendant Thomas Tully appeals the trial judge's determination, following a trial, of three issues in this divorce action, namely: alimony, equitable distribution and counsel fees. In light of the standard of review applicable to appeals of such determinations, we affirm.
Both parties were born in 1958. They married in 1999, his first, her second. Their marriage produced no children, but plaintiff Kathy Tully had custody of her two children -- twins born in 1992 -- from her first marriage, for which she received child support from her first husband. This divorce action was commenced in 2009; Kathy moved out of the marital home in 2010.
The parties stipulated to a resolution of many issues but a trial was required to resolve their disputes regarding alimony, the distribution of a baseball memorabilia collection, and counsel fees. A trial took place over the course of four days in June and July 2010. Judge Lisa M. Vignuolo rendered a dual judgment of divorce, as well as her written findings of fact and conclusions of law, on August 20, 2010.
Thomas appealed, presenting the following arguments for our consideration:
I. TRIAL JUDGE MISAPPLIED THE FACTORS SET FORTH IN N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) WHEN AWARDING PLAINTIFF/RESPONDENT ALIMONY IN THE AMOUNT OF $900.00 PER WEEK FOR A TERM OF 10 YEARS.
A. The Trial Court Erred In Awarding Plaintiff/Respondent Alimony In The Amount Of $900 Per Week.
B. The Trial Court Erred In Awarding Limited Duration Alimony Of 10 Years.
II. TRIAL JUDGE ERRONEOUSLY DETERMINED THE DEFENDANT/APPELLANT'S BASEBALL MEMORABILIA WAS SUBJECT TO EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION.
III. TRIAL JUDGE'S METHOD OF EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF THE BASEBALL MEMORABILIA IS IMPOSSIBLE TO EXECUTE.
IV. TRIAL JUDGE MISAPPLIED THE FACTORS SET FORTH IN RULE 5:3-5(c) WHEN AWARDING PLAIN-TIFF/RESPONDENT COUNSEL FEES IN THE AMOUNT OF $5,000 ($7,500 MINUS A $2,500 CREDIT PURSUANT TO THE PARTIES' CONSENT ORDER.)
We find insufficient merit in these arguments to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We add only the following brief comments regarding Point I.
In awarding Kathy limited duration alimony for a period of ten years at the rate of $900 per week, the judge considered Thomas's greater income during the course of the marriage. Thomas was employed by Bristol-Myers Squibb as a scientist during the course of the marriage. His income was $108,933 in 1999 and steadily increased until 2009, when his income was $175,997. Kathy was sporadically employed during the marriage, earning only slightly more than $10,000 for the years 1999 to 2008. As a certified EKG and telemetry technician, she earned $11,790 in 2009 and, as the time of trial, anticipated earning approximately $22,000 in 2010.
In light of these facts, and those relevant to the other statutory alimony factors, as to which she made thorough findings, the judge determined that Kathy required $900 per week in alimony in order to maintain the standard of living to which she had become accustomed during the course of their marriage.
Our review of the findings made by family judges in such matters is deferential. We recognize that their special expertise counsels against our intervening, particularly when the judge has had the opportunity to gain a feel of the case from listening to and observing the witnesses as they testified. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 412-13 (1998). Because she applied correct principles of law and reasonably applied the facts, as she found them, to the statutory factors contained in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, we will defer to the sound determinations made by Judge Vignuolo.
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