On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-1292-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 14, 2011
Before Judges Lihotz and Waugh.
Defendant Donna L. Welch appeals from the order of the Family Part denying her motion to be relieved from a consent order in which she agreed to a reduction in alimony payable by plaintiff Brian J. Welch.*fn1 We reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.
The parties were married in 1983 and divorced in 2008. They had two children. At the time of the divorce, Brian was employed and Donna was receiving Social Security Disability (SSD). Their property settlement agreement (PSA) required Brian to pay permanent alimony in the amount of $10,000 per year, payable $833 each month. Following the divorce, Donna moved to Florida. She continued to visit New Jersey to see her children. She and Brian generally had a cordial relationship, the parameters of which are disputed.
Brian became disabled in August 2009. He received disability from a private plan, and eventually qualified for SSD. In early 2010, Brian asked Donna to sign a consent order reducing her alimony to $3000 per year, payable $250 monthly, based upon his reduced financial circumstances. Donna consulted her prior attorney, who advised Donna against agreeing to the consent order. Donna nevertheless signed the consent order, which was entered on March 8, 2010.
In January 2011, Donna moved to reinstate the alimony provisions of the PSA and for other relief not raised on appeal. In her supporting certification, Donna asserted that she signed the consent order because she had been led to believe there would be a reconciliation with Brian. Noting that her disability was psychiatric and that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe depression, she also asserted that she did "not feel that [she] was of sound mind when [her] ex-husband forced [her] to sign the [c]onsent
In opposition to the motion, Brian denied that he led Donna
to believe that there would be a reconciliation. He also denied that he threatened or coerced her in any way. Brian further asserted that he made full financial disclosure at the time he asked Donna to agree to the reduction, and that they had comparable incomes at the time because of his disability. In reply, Donna asserted that Brian had made generalized threats to her if she refused to agree to the reduction. She also denied that Brian made any financial disclosure at the time he asked her to sign the consent order, pointing out that he had not filed a case information statement in connection with her motion.*fn2 Finally, she claimed that Brian went on disability to enhance the value of his claim against his former employer.
Although Donna asked for oral argument, the motion judge decided the motion without it.*fn3 With respect to the issue of the consent order, the ...