MICHAEL R. JONES, Plaintiff-Respondent,
MARY BETH JONES, Defendant-Appellant.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued May 1, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FM-04-404-03.
Richard F. Klineburger, III, argued the cause for appellant (Klineburger and Nussey, attorneys; D. Ryan Nussey, on the brief).
Peter R. Thorndike argued the cause for respondent (Ryan and Thorndike, attorneys; Mr. Thorndike, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Axelrad and Sapp-Peterson.
In this post-judgment matrimonial matter, defendant Mary Beth Jones appeals from the orders denying her motion to extend the term of her limited duration alimony and convert it to permanent alimony, and denying reconsideration. Defendant primarily argues the court's decision was not supported by substantial credible evidence, and she is entitled to extended alimony, as a matter of equity, because she was married for eighteen years. We affirm.
After eighteen years of marriage, the parties, both in their early forties and represented by counsel, negotiated a property settlement agreement (PSA), which was incorporated in a May 2003 final judgment of divorce (FJD). Defendant was named the parent of primary residence for their fourteen and one-half-year-old daughter and eleven-year-old son, both of whom had special needs, and plaintiff agreed to pay $200 per week in child support. The PSA also required plaintiff to fund a special needs trust for the children with a $250, 000 life insurance policy. At that time plaintiff was a truck driver earning $80, 000 annually and defendant worked part time as a home health aide earning $18, 000 annually. The PSA also obligated plaintiff to pay defendant nine years of alimony at $325 per week with the caveat that defendant "may make [a] Lepisor Cr[ews] application after the expiration of the said nine (9) year term to continue support."
On May 29, 2012, defendant filed a post-judgment motion seeking a court order to: extend the term of her limited duration alimony and convert it to permanent alimony; increase the amount of alimony; require plaintiff to maintain life insurance to secure his alimony obligation; require plaintiff to produce complete financial documents and a complete case information statement (CIS); adjust plaintiff's child support obligations; require plaintiff to produce life insurance proofs to secure his child support; designate the special needs trust as the irrevocable beneficiary of plaintiff's life insurance policy in place to secure his child support obligations; require plaintiff to reimburse her for 100% of the children's unreimbursed medical bills; other relief related to the special needs trust; and counsel fees.
Defendant certified that her request to extend the term of plaintiff's alimony and convert it into permanent alimony was appropriate due to her lengthy marriage, her extensive additional responsibilities for her two special needs children, her limited income and age, her lack of any other source of income, and the fact she struggled to meet one-half of the standard of living she enjoyed during their marriage. Defendant certified that their daughter, who has Asperger's Syndrome but is higher functioning than their son, worked about twenty-five hours per week earning $8.09 per hour, which was her maximum earning capacity. She further stated that their son earned about $40 per week through a program teaching job skills to individuals with special needs, but he would become ineligible for the program once he turned twenty-one years old. He did, however, receive $364.32 in monthly Social Security benefits that she used for his expenses.
Plaintiff filed opposition. He produced the financial information sought in defendant's motion and did not object to a child support adjustment or naming the special needs trust as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. Plaintiff also submitted proof of payment of the noted health-related expenses and explained that the only problem was defendant's failure to timely provide him with the medical invoices.
Defendant responded, certifying there was a change of circumstances because her income was significantly lower than at the time of the divorce and plaintiff's income was higher than it was in 2008 when he was able to reduce his child support payments. She also ...