On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-1198-03.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 6, 2012
Before Judges Grall and Alvarez.
In this appeal, defendant Robert Jones seeks relief from a post-divorce order denying his motion to modify or eliminate spousal support and granting plaintiff Pamela Jones's cross-motion for an increase in child support. Additionally, defendant was required to pay plaintiff the balance remaining on a child's education costs for the 2008-2009 academic year.
Lastly, plaintiff was granted counsel fees of $5695. Defendant's subsequent application for reconsideration was also denied, and plaintiff's cross-motion for enforcement of litigant's rights was granted, as were additional counsel fees. We affirm.
The court issued its cogent, thorough, and comprehensive decision on the merits on March 8, 2011, after extensive submissions and oral argument. Thereafter, on May 13, 2011, the court denied defendant's request for oral argument on his motion for reconsideration.
The parties divorced on July 13, 2004, and have five children. Presumably because of the split parenting arrangement entered into when they divorced, defendant was required to pay only $190 weekly in child support, but $800 weekly in alimony. By the time of the motion in 2011, defendant's child support obligation had been increased to $222 weekly.
In 2004, defendant had an income or earning capacity of $165,000 per year and plaintiff's earning capacity was $45,000.*fn1
Defendant, who is in the residential home construction business, claimed in his motion submissions that he earned no income for 2009 despite, as the Family judge described it, "amass[ing] several luxury assets including a 42' boat and a condo on Islamorada Key in Florida." The combined equity in those two assets alone, both of which were listed for sale in 2011, was $334,000.
Furthermore, the financial documents revealed that defendant had acquired his partner's interest in a jointly owned construction business in 2008 for $989,000, applying $680,000 in borrowed funds towards the purchase price. The court found this resulted in defendant becoming the sole owner of a business worth over $1.9 million, which carried debt of only $680,000. On his case information statement (CIS), defendant did not attribute a current value to the business, as the judge put it, "with only the cryptic notation 'TBD.'"
At the time of the motion, defendant owned an interest, or had recently sold an interest, in several real estate holdings. Some of these assets were jointly held by defendant and his girlfriend. The judge found that these assets had hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity and were not fully described on defendant's CIS or in his supporting documentation.
In addition to questioning the reliability and veracity of defendant's CIS, the judge also doubted defendant's assertion that the undisputed downturn in the real estate market warranted a reduction in alimony. In the six years after the divorce, defendant acquired assets that "if liquidated, would be more than sufficient to meet his support obligations for many years to come" despite the economic crisis. The judge characterized defendant's description of his assets and financial transactions as "clouded with questionable timing and suspicious circumstances which prompt skepticism as to their legitimacy."
Lastly, defendant's current monthly budget of expenses could be offset only by annual income of $166,512 - slightly more than the $165,000 he claimed as earnings when divorced in 2004. In fact, in 2004 defendant's assets were valued at $162,500, substantially less ...