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Elizabeth Connaughton v. Brian Connaughton

December 27, 2012

ELIZABETH CONNAUGHTON, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
BRIAN CONNAUGHTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FM-07-2822-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued March 14, 2012

Before Judges Graves, J. N. Harris, and Haas.

Plaintiff Elizabeth Connaughton and defendant Brian Connaughton were married on October 14, 1995. They have one child, a son, who is now twelve years old. Following a five-day trial, a judgment of divorce was entered on August 11, 2010, and an amended judgment of divorce was entered on September 17, 2010. On appeal, defendant argues the trial court erred in awarding permanent alimony to plaintiff in the amount of $50,000 per year. Defendant also claims the court abused its discretion by ordering him to be solely responsible for the fees of plaintiff's relocation and custody expert. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

The parties began dating in 1992 while attending graduate school at the Portfolio Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The Portfolio Center is an advertising and design school specializing in creative advertising, graphic design, art direction, copywriting, illustration and photography. Both parties obtained jobs in the advertising field after graduating in December 1992.

Plaintiff was initially employed as a junior art director with Ad Works in Washington, D.C. Her salary was approximately $28,000 per year. Defendant's first position was with W.B. Doner in Baltimore, Maryland, as a junior copywriter. His salary was comparable to plaintiff's.

About six months later, plaintiff accepted a position with Grey Advertising in New York City, which paid approximately $32,000 per year. The parties continued their relationship, with plaintiff in New York and defendant in Baltimore, until September 1994 when defendant obtained a job in New York City at the Ad Store. His salary was approximately $30,000. At that time, plaintiff was employed as a junior art director at BBDO earning between $35,000 and $38,000 per year. In January 1995, defendant obtained a position as a junior writer earning around $40,000 per year.

In June 1995, defendant accepted a position as a creative director at W.B. Doner, his former employer, in Cleveland, Ohio. Defendant's salary was $75,000 per year. The parties relocated to Cleveland, and plaintiff accepted a position as an associate creative director with the same company, earning $50,000 per year. While the parties were living in Cleveland, they were married on October 14, 1995, in Greenville, South Carolina, where plaintiff was born and raised.

A year later, the parties moved back to New York City. Defendant obtained employment with J. Walter Thompson, earning approximately $85,000 per year, and plaintiff began doing freelance work. At trial, plaintiff testified that from that point forward she has only done freelance work, which includes designing logos, brochures, business cards, and "things of that nature."

In December 2000, when the parties' son was born, defendant was working as an associate creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, earning approximately $185,000 a year. During her pregnancy, plaintiff worked about ten hours a week for a trade magazine, and she returned to work on a limited basis after their son was born. Plaintiff also obtained a Master's Degree in Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College in 2001.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the parties wanted to "slow things down" and decided to move to Greenville, South Carolina. Plaintiff testified defendant's work schedule was "very demanding," and they were hoping to simplify their lives, "and spend more time together as a family."

Following their move to Greenville in 2002, the parties started their own advertising agency, Bottle Rocket Creative (Bottle Rocket). The parties were the only employees and operated the business out of plaintiff's parent's basement until they purchased their own home. However, the business did not develop the way the parties had envisioned, and, in 2006, they decided to close their business and return to the New York area.

In August 2006, defendant accepted a position as a vice president and associate creative director at Digitas in New York City, and he relocated to New Jersey with the expectation that plaintiff and their son would join him when they sold their house in South Carolina. In February 2007, the parties purchased a home in Maplewood, New Jersey, and plaintiff and the parties' son moved to Maplewood in July 2007. After joining her husband in New Jersey, plaintiff did some ...


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