NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued February 12, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, Docket No. FM-18-501-96.
Laurence J. Cutler argued the cause for appellant/cross-respondent (Fox Rothschild, L.L.P., attorneys; Mr. Cutler on the brief).
Bonnie C. Frost argued the cause for respondent/cross-appellant (Einhorn, Harris, Ascher, Barbarito & Frost, attorneys; Ms. Frost on the brief).
Before Judges Yannotti, Harris and Hayden.
Defendant John Edmund Turner appeals and plaintiff Carolyn Joan Turner cross-appeals from post-judgment Family Part orders regarding proposed changes in the parties' Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). Because the trial judge did not make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to enable us to ascertain whether he appropriately exercised his discretion, we are constrained to reverse and remand for further proceedings.
The parties were married on November 30, 1976, and divorced by dual judgment of divorce on February 27, 2001, which incorporated their PSA. Plaintiff suffered from an autoimmune endocrine disease, which rendered her unable to hold steady employment. Their PSA provided that defendant pay $7500 per month to plaintiff in permanent spousal support "based on the Husband's annual salary of £150, 000 (UK) and year 2000 bonus of £47, 000 (UK)." Defendant also agreed to keep a life insurance policy worth $500, 000, with plaintiff named the beneficiary, so long as defendant had an obligation to pay alimony.
In 2001, defendant started working for IBM Global Services. IBM informed defendant in July 2008 that he must retire upon reaching the age of sixty-five on June 30, 2009. Although he wrote his employer objecting to his retirement, he did not make a formal appeal. Accordingly, he retired on July 5, 2009.
In light of his upcoming retirement, defendant filed an application in the Family Part for modification of spousal support on May 14, 2009, alleging changed circumstances. Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980). Defendant requested that the court terminate his alimony and life insurance obligation, or alternatively, that the court hold a plenary hearing on the matter and suspend his alimony obligation until rendering a decision.
On July 2, 2009, plaintiff filed an opposition and a cross motion requesting the court to deny defendant's motion, require defendant to name plaintiff as the owner of defendant's Transamerica Universal Life Insurance policy, and name plaintiff as the beneficiary of $47, 000 from any of his life insurance policies, or, alternatively, pay off the $47, 000 loan he took from the Transamerica policy. Plaintiff also requested counsel fees and costs incurred in opposing defendant's motion.
On July 31, 2009, the Family Part judge granted defendant's request for a plenary hearing on modification of his alimony obligation, ordered defendant to continue paying $6000 per month alimony until the plenary hearing, and reserved the other issues for later consideration pending the outcome of the hearing.
A different Family Part judge conducted four non-consecutive days of hearings in which defendant's credibility and his current financial circumstances were vigorously disputed. At the hearing, defendant contended that he should not be required to pay alimony as he was no longer able to find employment. Defendant testified that he "spent several hundred pounds of [his] own money attending a course on interim management, " and registered with four or five companies that ...