On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-356-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 14, 2011 -
Before Judges Cuff, Lihotz, and Waugh.
Plaintiff Laura Seuffert (Laura)*fn1 appeals from the post-judgment order of the Family Part lowering the alimony obligation of defendant Paul Seuffert (Paul), as well as the denial of her request that Paul be placed on bench-warrant status for missed alimony payments. Paul cross-appeals from the denial of his motion to terminate alimony due to his former wife's cohabitation with another and for child support for the two children who reside with him. We remand for further discovery and a plenary hearing.
We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.
Laura and Paul were married in October 1986. They have three children, a daughter and two sons.
Paul has an associate's degree from Brookdale Community College. During the marriage, Paul was a trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), having worked as a trader since he was eighteen years old. He obtained one seat on NYMEX prior to the marriage and acquired a one-half interest in an additional seat during the marriage. During 2005 and 2006, he earned an adjusted gross income of about $1.3 million and $1.8 million, respectively. Laura was not employed outside the home.
Laura filed a complaint for divorce in August 2003. A final judgment of divorce was filed on January 23, 2006. After the parties signed a property settlement agreement (PSA), an amended judgment of divorce incorporating the PSA was filed on March 20, 2006.
Pursuant to the PSA, Paul transferred several million dollars in assets to Laura as equitable distribution. Paul was also required to pay alimony of $4000 per month. The PSA provided that "[a]limony shall terminate upon plaintiff's remarriage, death of either party, or plaintiff's cohabitation." Although neither party was required to pay child support, Paul was required to pay for the children's major expenses, and the parties were to split the children's living expenses during their respective parenting time. The parties were to be responsible for their own counsel and expert fees.
In August 2010, Paul filed a motion to terminate his alimony obligation and to require Laura to pay child support for the two children, both sons, who had been living with him. Laura filed a cross-motion seeking denial of Paul's motion, as well as an order requiring (1) that alimony be paid through Probation Services, (2) that Paul prove the existence of the life insurance required by the PSA, (3) that Paul be placed on bench-warrant status if his alimony payments are more than fourteen days late, and (4) that the court award her counsel fees she incurred regarding the motions.*fn2
Paul asserted that he had lost his job at NYMEX and had not earned an income since 2006. He further asserted that in 2009, the year preceding his motion to terminate alimony, he had taxable income of $474,064, but a loss of approximately $590,000. Paul also alleged that Laura had been cohabiting with her boyfriend. He presented a letter from a private investigator, who reported that the boyfriend frequently stayed overnight at Laura's house, for which he possessed a remote garage door opener.
Laura asserted that Paul had sold his one and a half seats on NYMEX, realizing millions of dollars in profit. She further contended that he had had an average income of $740,000 per year over the course of the five years leading up to the motion, which did not include his interest and dividend income. She pointed to Paul's purchase of a second home for $1.75 million prior to the filing of his motion as evidence that he was not having financial difficulties. According to Laura, her boyfriend stayed at her house less than twenty-five percent of the time during the ...