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Ronaldo L. Vukovich v. Stephanie R. Vukovich

July 21, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-164-07C.

Per curiam.


Submitted: January 3, 2011

Before Judges Grall and C.L. Miniman.

Plaintiff Ronaldo L. Vukovich appeals from final orders entered on September 14, 2009, denying in part his post-judgment motion for various forms of relief and granting in part defendant Stephanie R. Vukovich's cross-motion in aid of litigant's rights and for other relief.

The parties were married on June 30, 2001, and twin daughters were born thereafter. A final judgment of divorce (JOD) was entered on September 18, 2006, which incorporated an inter-spousal agreement dated June 27, 2006. Pursuant to that agreement, defendant had sole custody of the children and plaintiff was "entitled to fair and reasonable time sharing with the [c]hildren." The agreement provided for child support in the amount of $650 per week commencing on November 1, 2006. Neither party had a right to apply for modification thereof until January 1, 2010, at which time child support would "be subject to modification and paid in accordance with the prevailing law of the State of New Jersey." Failing such an application, support would continue at $650 per week plus any cost-of-living increases imposed at any time by the Probation Department.

Paragraph five of the agreement specifically described the basis for a modification to child support:

Husband is the sole beneficiary of a trust established September 7, 1999 entitled "Ronaldo Vukovich Trust". As of April 30, 2003 the trust res consisting of Class B Non-Voting Common Stock of Wellsprings [sic] Pharmaceutical Company was redeemed and the trust was terminated effective as of May 1, 2003. Under the terms of redemption Wellsprings [sic] Pharmaceutical Corp. made and executed a Subordinated Promissory Note dated May 1, 2003 that provides for the payment of $1,950,000.00, with simple interest, to the trust in quarter annual installments of $62,273.00 the first installment being due on July 31, 2003. The last installment is to be made on January 31, 2013. Under the terms of the trust [plaintiff], as the sole beneficiary, is entitled to each of the quarterly installment payments made under and pursuant to the Subordinated Promissory Note.

During the marriage [plaintiff] was employed for a period of time in the Sales Department of Olsten Staffing Services. In early 2005, [plaintiff] voluntarily terminated his employment and pursued one or more interim jobs of a lesser nature. There is no health or other reason that would prevent [plaintiff] from seeking quality, gainful employment on a full-time basis. [Plaintiff] is presently employed by Westwood Computer and earns $36,000.00 per year.

[Defendant] is currently on an extended maternity leaving having [recently] given birth to twins . . . . [Defendant] is committed to return to her full-time teaching position in September 2006 at which time she expects to have annual earnings of approximately $45,000.00. Absent an unforeseen event which would deny [defendant] the right to return to work, [defendant] agrees that she will return to her full-time teaching position in September 2006.

The agreement further provided that plaintiff would be responsible for all work-related child-care expenses and would maintain a $1 million term life insurance policy for the benefit of the children until his support obligations ended. Plaintiff agreed that defendant could claim the children as exemptions on her income tax returns and "waive[d] the right to request informally or upon formal application to a [c]court on [n]notice of [m]otion that he be allowed to claim one or both of the [c]hildren as exemptions on his income tax returns."

Plaintiff filed a notice of motion on July 20, 2009, with supporting certification*fn1 seeking a decrease in his child-support obligation to $263 per week, reduction in his life-insurance obligation to $500,000, allocation of the entire pre-school tuition to defendant, award of a tax exemption for one child to him, establishment of parenting time, and an award of counsel fees and costs. Apparently submitted in support of his motion was a February 5, 2009, letter to him from Robert A. Vukovich, plaintiff's uncle and the President and CEO of WellSpring Pharmaceutical Corp., transmitting a revised promissory note that reduced the quarterly payments of $62,273 to monthly payments of $5000, reduced the interest rate from 4.58% to 2.03%, and extended the maturity date to April 30, 2018. The letter sought agreement to the adjusted terms, and plaintiff affixed his consent to the revised promissory note. Plaintiff's earnings statement for the two-week period ending February 13, 2010, indicated gross pay of $1,346.16 and net pay after deduction of state and federal taxes, dental and medical insurance, and a $629.92 wage garnishment of $347.75. Plaintiff also submitted a Child Support Guidelines Sole Parenting Worksheet suggesting that his child support obligation should be $263 per week.

Defendant filed a notice of cross-motion on August 28, 2009, and two certifications*fn2 opposing plaintiff's motion in its entirety and seeking an order finding plaintiff in violation of litigant's rights, directing him to pay child support in the full amount due, ordering him to pay all child-support arrears, requiring him to pay the pre-school tuition and after-school expenses, scheduling parenting time, and for other relief.

A subsequent letter from the President of WellSpring dated August 28, 2009, addressed to plaintiff was apparently submitted in response to the cross-motion. It clarified that the revisions to the promissory note were part of the renegotiation of WellSpring's obligations to its creditors, "including individuals and financial institutions," as a result "of the global economic meltdown and its impact on WellSpring, including its cash flow position." He further noted that "had [plaintiff] not agreed ...

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