Defendant’s Financial Obligations that were Past Due, the Court Forced Him to Sell His Home and Provide the Proceeds to the Plaintiff
Docket No. A-0261-20
Decided June 15, 2023
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division of New Jersey affirmed a trial court’s denial of a motion to modify alimony, finding the movant had made a prima facie showing of cohabitation but there was no proof of comingling of assets.
In Gromek, Plaintiff Sharon Gromek and defendant were married in May 1982 and divorced in July 1999. Defendant was ordered to pay alimony to plaintiff and child support for their two children, a daughter born in 1988 and a son born in 1990. The parties have continued to engage in extensive litigation since their divorce.
After a fourteen-day plenary hearing, the trial court entered a December 10, 2014 order, which, in part, required defendant to pay his children’s undergraduate education expenses: $38,683.01 for his daughter and $44,853.97 for his son. The court also ordered defendant to pay $77,081.67 to plaintiff in counsel fees and granted defendant’s request to have probation recalculate his alimony and child support arrears and credits.
By 2019, defendant had still not satisfied these obligations. The court, in a June 26, 2019 order, gave defendant one year—until July 31, 2020—to pay the remaining balance owed to plaintiff. If he failed to do so, his house would be listed for sale to satisfy the judgment.
Defendant was given until November 1, 2020, to pay “any and all judgments owed to [p]laintiff . . . .” If he was able to refinance his house, the closing agent for the resulting sale was ordered to pay the amount defendant owed for the college expenses and attorneys’ fees. The court gave plaintiff power of attorney to sell the house if defendant failed to satisfy the judgments by November 1, 2020.
The court granted defendant’s request to retire at age seventy-four, after considering the factors in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(j)(1). It reasoned though defendant had a history of failing to meet his financial obligations in a timely manner, defendant had by this time been “able to refinance his residence to satisfy his outstanding debt.” Additionally, he still had an outstanding alimony obligation and other money he owed to plaintiff. Given the totality of the circumstances, the court found “both [p]laintiff and [d]efendant are provided the opportunity to prepare for [d]efendant’s ultimate retirement” if he retires at the age of seventy-four.
The court denied defendant’s motion to terminate alimony. Utilizing the factors in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(k), the court found defendant did not meet his burden to show changed circumstances because he still had one asset—his house. Additionally, defendant wrote in his certification he had a higher income, suggesting he was still able to meet his obligations. Lastly, the court remarked defendant had failed to make any timely payments to plaintiff for the previous ten years.
Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed the Court Orders, but remanded on the issue of counsel fees for the Court to review the appropriate factors.
This case is important to understand that family court judges have tremendous power and ability to enforce orders in New Jersey. For Defendant’s financial obligations that were past due, the Court forced him to sell his home and provide the proceeds to plaintiff. Judges can also issue monetary sanctions, award attorneys fees, and even incarcerate individuals for contempt.
If you have questions about alimony and cohabitation or remarriage, contact the experienced matrimonial divorce attorneys at Hark & Hark today.
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We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you have been divorced with an alimony obligation and the other party is cohabitating similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties. We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Bass River, Beverly, Bordentown City, Bordentown Township, Burlington City, Burlington Township, Chesterfield, Cinnaminson, Delanco, Delran, Eastampton, Edgewater Park, Evesham, Fieldsboro, Florence, Hainesport, Lumberton, Mansfield, Maple Shade, Medford Lakes, Medford Township, Moorestown, Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, New Hanover, North Hanover, Palmyra, Pemberton Borough, Pemberton Township, Riverside, Riverton, Shamong, Southampton, Springfield, Tabernacle, Washington Township, Westampton, Willingboro, Woodland Township, and Wrightstown.