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Virginia Gordon v. Arthur J. Gordon

June 7, 2012

VIRGINIA GORDON, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ARTHUR J. GORDON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FM-12-722-99C.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: March 7, 2012

Before Judges Axelrad and Sapp-Peterson.

In this post-judgment matrimonial matter, defendant Arthur Gordon (husband) appeals from the Family Part's October 18, 2010 order reducing his alimony obligation by $100 per week and the January 3, 2011 order denying his motion for reconsideration. On appeal, he argues the reduction was not sufficient, it should have been retroactive to the date of his disability, and his life insurance obligation also should have been reduced. We remand.

I.

After nearly twenty-five years of marriage, the parties were divorced on January 31, 2000. As part of their property settlement agreement (PSA), husband agreed to pay plaintiff Virginia Gordon (wife) $300 per week in permanent alimony until their younger son, who was almost eighteen years old, was emancipated, after which husband's payment would increase to $400 per week because his $100 per week child support obligation would terminate. The parties also agreed that husband would maintain a life insurance policy for wife's benefit in the amount of $100,000.

On December 18, 2009, husband filed a motion to modify alimony by either terminating it or reducing his monthly payments. He also sought to terminate his life insurance obligation. Wife filed a cross-motion, seeking to increase her monthly alimony award.

On January 22, 2010, Judge Bryan D. Garruto denied husband's motion and wife's cross-motion without prejudice, but required husband to undergo an independent medical examination to determine whether he was permanently disabled. On January 23, 2010, the Social Security Administration (SSA) sent husband a letter, advising of its determination that he became disabled on May 20, 2009.

On or about March 3, 2010, husband filed a motion to terminate alimony, based on the SSA's disability determination. Judge Garruto entered an order on April 16, 2010, denying termination of alimony but granting husband's motion for a downward modification of his alimony obligation, finding husband's "significantly reduced earnings, as compared to his salary at the time of the parties' divorce, constitutes a permanent and substantial change of circumstances." Judge Garruto also ordered wife to provide her most recent financial information so the court could recalculate husband's alimony obligation, and denied husband's motion to terminate his obligation to maintain a life insurance policy for wife's benefit. The order provided that the court would calculate defendant's obligation on May 28, but was silent as to the date the reduction would take effect.

The parties submitted supplemental certifications and additional financial information as directed by the court, which extended beyond the anticipated May hearing date. Following a plenary hearing on October 1, another Family Part judge entered an order and letter opinion dated October 18, reducing husband's alimony obligation from $400 per week to $300 per week, retroactive to April 16, 2010. The opinion was silent as to husband's life insurance obligation and the order generally denied without prejudice "[a]ny other issues not specifically addressed." Husband moved for reconsideration, which was denied on January 3, 2011. This appeal ensued.

II.

The parties were married in l975. At the time of their divorce in 2000, wife worked as an assistant manager for Sovereign Bank, earning approximately $25,000. Husband was employed as a Facilities Director in Credit Suisse/First Boston, earning approximately $120,000 in 1999, including about $25,000 worth of overtime pay without benefits.

After the divorce, wife's income increased to approximately $50,000, until she lost her job in June 2009, and began receiving unemployment benefits. Husband changed his employment to a lower position with Smith Barney to obtain health ...


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