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R.S.V v. C.V

July 14, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, Docket No. FM-16-000941-09.

Per curiam.


Argued June 8, 2011

Before Judges Baxter and Koblitz.

Plaintiff R.S.V. appeals from various aspects of the July 27, 2010 amended final judgment of divorce entered after a full trial. He argues that the court erred in its decision regarding: (1) the $49,400 per year of permanent alimony awarded to defendant C.V.; (2) the lack of child support ordered from C.V.; (3) the order that he pay 75% of the cost of the parenting coordinator, and the authority granted to the parenting coordinator; and (4) the award of $10,000 in counsel fees to C.V. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm all of the trial court's decisions except with regard to child support and the division of the parenting coordinator's fee. We remand to the court for a reconsideration of the division of the parenting coordinator's fees and a calculation of the appropriate child support under all of the circumstances presented here.

Both college graduates in their early forties, the parties were divorced after more than fourteen years of marriage and the birth of five children. C.V. stopped working in February 1996, when the parties' first child was born. She did not start working again until January 2009, after they separated. She has never earned more than eleven dollars per hour and is currently working only six hours per week earning eight dollars per hour. Shortly after R.S.V. filed the divorce complaint, she was hospitalized due to a suicide attempt because she "realized that [she] wasn't going to have a place to live, . . . wasn't going to have money, [and] wasn't going to have a family anymore."

She had been previously hospitalized during the marriage three times, for approximately one week each time, over the course of six weeks in 2006. She has also been prescribed various psychiatric medications over the years. She suffers from depression caused, she said, by having "too many children, too quickly," and getting divorced, which was against her religious beliefs. C.V. testified at trial that she was under the care of a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist.*fn1 She said that she could not afford prescribed medications at times in the past because she had no health insurance.

R.S.V. received a bachelor's degree in economics from Vanderbilt University in 1989. After graduation, he went into the army as a lieutenant, joining the Army Reserves after six months of active duty. After seven years, he left the Reserves with the rank of captain. Thereafter, he and his father formed V. Builders, L.L.C. (VB), with each owning fifty percent of the company. R.S.V. received no formal construction training prior to joining his father in the family business.

R.S.V. and his father built speculation homes. R.S.V. testified that his role in the business "was literally to build the homes. . . . [He] had absolutely no involvement whatsoever with the office work, or the administration, or the disbursement of fun[d]s, or for that matter even consummating deals . . . on either buying property or selling houses. [His] father took care of all of that." During the latter part of the marriage, before R.S.V.'s father died, both parties agree that they spent approximately $180,000 per year after taxes to maintain their marital lifestyle.

In November 2008, R.S.V.'s father passed away. In early 2010, VB was dissolved. The company maintained a line of credit with a balance of approximately $220,000 until shortly before R.S.V.'s father died. R.S.V. testified that he "discovered" the credit "maybe two or three weeks before . . . [his] father's death," despite acknowledging that both he and his father personally guaranteed the line of credit. R.S.V.'s mother settled with the bank and paid the balance.

After his father's passing, R.S.V. finished his last project for VB, building a home, and then worked with his cousin as a contractor doing odd jobs "on a will call basis" for approximately three to four months. When he worked with his cousin, R.S.V. earned $500 to $600 per day.

R.S.V. testified that he "took out an advertisement" in the local newspapers, joined "an online service called Bit Clerk, which matche[d] contractors with job leads," and engaged in "personal networking." R.S.V. also submitted his resume to one of his neighbors, a headhunter.

In September 2009, the court entered a pendente lite order, requiring R.S.V. to obtain employment within thirty days. In February 2010, R.S.V. obtained a full-time position at his brother-in-law's company, Wayne Tile, as a warehouseman. At trial, R.S.V. stated he received an hourly wage of $18, and approximately $37,250 annually.

C.V. produced Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (Statistics) for full-time managers in construction and general operations managers. The mean average salary for those occupations was $127,250 and $161,000, respectively.

After the parties separated, R.S.V. moved in with his mother. The children moved into that residence in May 2009, after C.V. was hospitalized. The paternal grandmother cares for the children during the day when they are not in school and R.S.V. is at work. C.V. transports the children to and from school and sees them pursuant to an agreed-upon parenting time schedule. As of trial, R.S.V.'s mother was supplementing his income, including paying for the children's food expenses and the eldest child's Catholic school tuition.

After the separation, C.V. moved in with her friend for approximately three months and received food stamps from July through December 2009. C.V. then moved to a rental home. The court ordered R.S.V. to pay C.V. pendente lite support of $250 per week in temporary alimony and an additional approximately $1625 per month for C.V.'s rent.

In the final judgment of divorce, the court imputed $100,000 in income to R.S.V., ordered him to pay C.V. $950 per week in permanent alimony, and did not require C.V. to pay any child support for the five children.

C.V. testified that her parents lent her money to pay her attorney approximately $20,000 in fees. She owed approximately $15,000 in addition. R.S.V. indicated that he had paid his attorney more than $30,000 and still owed approximately $25,000. The court awarded C.V. $10,000 in counsel fees based upon the "imbalance with regard to [the] financial positions of the parties," finding that neither party acted in bad faith.

Custody of the five children was not an issue at trial. In the amended final judgment of divorce, the court allocated the costs for the agreed-upon parenting coordinator; seventy-five percent to R.S.V., twenty-five percent to C.V. The order further specified, as agreed by the parties, that the coordinator had "the authority to make recommendations concerning the children to the [c]court." The court added the words "for resolution" after the following agreed-upon language:

"All disputes shall be presented to the [p]arenting [c]oordinator."

R.S.V. raises the following issues on appeal:


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