Divorce Plaintiff Misled the Court About His Income; Counsel Fees Were Awarded to the Defendant Payable by Plaintiff

K.W. v. S.W.

Docket No. A-2884-19

Decided August 17, 2021

Submitted by New Jersey Divorce Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division reviewed a trial judge decision to recalculate child support and award $102,911.28 in counsel fees to the Defendant.

In K.W. v. S.W., The parties divorced in 2013 after nine years of marriage. They have two children, M.W., born in March 2002, and C.W., born in May 2004. A marital settlement agreement (MSA) was incorporated into the final judgment of divorce (FJOD) entered on March 19, 2013. In accordance with the relevant provisions of the MSA, the parties agreed to share legal and physical custody of the children and reserved on the final determination of residential custody, although the MSA named defendant as the parent of primary residence (PPR) and plaintiff as the parent of alternate residence. Plaintiff agreed to pay defendant limited duration alimony of $33,600 annually for three-and-one-half years and child support of $73 per week. The MSA provided that plaintiff’s gross annual income from salary and investments is $185,000, and defendant’s imputed gross annual salary as a pharmacist is $125,000. After plaintiff’s alimony obligation terminated on September 18, 2016, the parties agreed in their MSA to recalculate child support and related expenses for the children.

Through years of litigation, plaintiff changed his position on custody several times. During the final hearing, plaintiff provided contradictory testimony as to his income and prior requests for custody.  In response, the trial judge found plaintiff to be not credible and to intentionally mislead the court as to his income. Further, plaintiff’s changing positions on custody was found to be made in bad faith. Accordingly, child support was modified as requested by defendant and $102,911.28 in counsel fees were awarded to the defendant payable by plaintiff.

Plaintiff appealed, and the Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s decision, finding the trial judge appropriately applied the factors and supporting record.

Most family matters are resolved with agreements including custody agreements, visitation schedules, alimony and child support amounts, property settlement agreements (PSAs), Matrimonial Settlement Agreements (MSAs) and civil restraints.  The agreements, especially PSA and MSA, can be reviewed years later, and are upheld with the exception of significantly changed circumstances or unconscionability.  Therefore, you have to make sure that the agreement is in your best interests.

You also want to make sure that you report your income and financial status accurately at all times during child support, alimony, divorce, post-matrimonial, or any other situations involving money.  This includes making sure your Case Information Statement (CIS) shows your true living status. If you fail to report income accurately, you can suffer harsh consequences like the plaintiff above. Make sure you hire an attorney that guide you , protect you, while getting you the best result possible.

At Hark & Hark, we help clients with prenups, divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony issues and more.

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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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