DOLLIE M. MUSA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
PAUL O. MUSA, Defendant-Appellant.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted June 3, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FM-07-1068-04.
C.N. Njoku, LLC, attorneys for appellant (Chinemerem N. Njoku, on the brief).
Respondent has not filed a brief.
Before Judges Fasciale and Maven.
In this uncontested matter, defendant Paul Musa appeals from an order dated August 3, 2012, denying his motion to vacate an April 20, 2012 order that obligated him to satisfy previously ordered equitable distribution, granting plaintiff Dollie Musa possession of the marital home, and awarding plaintiff $875 in counsel fees. We affirm in part and reverse in part.
The relevant facts follow. The parties were married in 1973 and divorced in 2004. They have two children, a son who at the time of this motion was emancipated and one daughter, who was in college. The motion judge presided over the divorce trial at which Dollie was represented by counsel and Paul was pro se. During the one-day trial, the judge heard testimony from the parties. According to the proceeding transcript, there was considerable discussion and dispute regarding, among other things, the equitable distribution of residential properties, including the marital home, Paul's retirement account, and allocation of marital debt. Neither party presented any expert testimony to support their respective requests for equitable distribution. Nevertheless, the Final Judgment of Divorce (FJD) ordered the following:
Africa Property – Dollie waived her interest in the property, which Paul owned before the marriage.
236 Walnut Street, East Orange (East Orange Property) — Dollie was granted sole title and possession of this property, which was deemed her premarital asset. However, Paul was deemed entitled to fifty percent of appreciation of property from Dollie calculated from the date of marriage until November 30, 2003, the date of the divorce complaint. Each party was to share on a pro-rata income basis in the cost of any appraisal for any property.
382 Wallingford Terrace, Union (Union Property) — This was the marital home. Paul was granted possession of the home until the minor daughter graduated college or professional school. Either party could buy out the other party's interest or the property would be sold and the net proceeds divided equally between the parties. Paul was granted a $1500 credit for each mortgage payment he made.
Refinance Proceeds for the Union Property — Paul testified that in 2003, he refinanced the Union property to pay off multiple marital debts. Although some credit account statements were attached to the HUD-1 settlement sheet and presented to the court, the judge did not make a finding whether these were marital debts. Rather, she ordered that Dollie would receive a credit in the amount of $76, 000 as her share of the proceeds from the second mortgage of the Union property unless Paul submitted proof, within sixty days of the trial date to Dollie's counsel, that the $76, 000 was used to liquidate marital debts acquired during the term of the parties' physical cohabitation.
243 Nesbitt Terrace, Irvington — This jointly-owned property was in the process of being sold at the time of the trial. Paul was ordered to have his real estate attorney provide a complete copy of the closing documents to Dollie's counsel. Net proceeds were ...