Appellate Court Upholds Property Sale to Satisfy Divorce Judgment

Anna Maria Toth v. John Turi

Docket No. A-3075-20

Decided August 29, 2023

Submitted by New Jersey Divorce Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from a May 2021 order, in favor of plaintiff, permitting the sale of defendant’s real property to satisfy a $174,020 judgment plaintiff obtained in connection with the parties’ 2019 divorce.

At the conclusion of the trial of the parties’ divorce in March 2019, the court entered a judgment of divorce and imposed a constructive trust on certain pre-marital assets belonging to plaintiff, which the court found had been in defendant’s wrongful and inequitable possession since 2015. The items were valued at $168,500. The judge ordered defendant to return the specifically identified items to plaintiff within thirty days, or she would be permitted to docket a judgment against him for $168,500 and include costs of $5,520. Defendant did not timely return specified items to plaintiff and the court entered judgment against him for $174,020.

Plaintiff obtained a writ of execution in November 2019. Sheriff was only able to levy on a pickup truck and a car. Plaintiff hired counsel to collect the judgment in January 2020. Plaintiff’s counsel served a subpoena on defendant who claimed no income, elderly appliances and furniture and a home encumbered by two mortgages.

Plaintiff’s counsel filed a motion to permit plaintiff to execute on his real property, which the court denied in February 2021. Plaintiff’s counsel subsequently re-filed the motion to allow resort to defendant’s real property to satisfy her judgment, supported by her counsel’s certification detailing the efforts his firm and plaintiff had undertaken to collect the judgment by executing on defendant’s personal assets. In his certification to the court, plaintiff’s counsel explained that although plaintiff had successfully levied on defendant’s pickup truck and car, she could not proceed to an execution sale because of the COVID-19 restrictions, although she was still responsible for the sheriff’s storage fees. Defendant’s counsel opposed the motion, contending that the motion arguing plaintiff had not made a diligent effort to satisfy the judgment from defendant’s personal assets as required by N.J.S.A. 2A:17-1 and Rule 4:59-1. Defendant also filed a cross-motion to vacate the writ of execution based on his claim that the October 8, 2019 writ was defective.

In a written opinion, the trial court granted plaintiff’s motion and denied defendant’s cross-motion. The trial judge found that plaintiff, after two years of effort and expense, had only been able to collect $1,251.53 on her $174,020 judgment. He found plaintiff had exhausted all reasonable efforts to locate defendant’s personalty before filing her motion to proceed against defendant’s only apparent asset, his real property. Furthermore, the trial judge also found that plaintiff took all reasonable measures to locate and sell defendant’s personal assets under the statute and Rule 4:59-1(d)(1), including levying on defendant’s vehicles, and that the restrictions on the sheriff’s office in terms of seizing and selling personal assets during this health crisis should not be held against her. Finally, the trial judge also denied defendant’s cross-motion, articulating that the precise amount of the judgment and what is included in it can readily be determined from the face of the November 14, 2019 writ. Defendant appealed.

On appeal, defendant argued that the court erred in permitting the sale of his property to satisfy plaintiff’s judgment because she unilaterally and voluntarily released the levy on his vehicles and she failed to seek alternatives, including a wage execution, before resort to his real property. Defendant also contends the court erred in relying on plaintiff’s counsel’s hearsay statements about the COVID-19 restrictions on execution sales and the sheriff’s storage fees, resort to his real property was against the public interest and the writ should have been vacated because the judgment amount set forth in the October 7, 2019 writ is erroneous.

Ultimately, the Appellate Court of New Jersey disagreed with defendant’s contentions and affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The court found that plaintiff’s release of the levy on the car and pickup truck because she could not proceed to sale during the pandemic did not undermine her entitlement to relief and the sale of the real property was not contrary to the public interest.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to appealing the sale of real property to satisfy debts in connection to a divorce. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of either party in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.





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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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