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Press Release

Appeal of Property Division and Support Terms Leads to Reversal

A recent New Jersey Appellate Division opinion considered cross-appeals by both ex-spouses after the trial court ordered payment of child and spousal support and division of assets.
May 26, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The financial issues of marital dissolution can be among the most contentious, particularly in the case of a high-asset divorce. Determinations of spousal support, equitable distribution of marital property and child support can have a significant impact on a spouse's independent financial future.
A recent New Jersey Appellate Division opinion, Ducey v. Ducey, considered cross-appeals by both parties after the trial court ordered payment of support and division of assets. The wife and husband had been married for almost 16 years before receiving a judgment of divorce (JOD), and had four children.
The primary assets of the couple were the family residence and the husband's partnership in a medical practice, and an irreconcilable dispute over their value meant that the case went to trial. During a lengthy bench trial (without a jury), the court heard complex expert analysis from competing real estate appraisers and forensic accounting experts.
The family court judge issued the JOD immediately, granting each party's request for divorce. But when she released the underlying details seven months later and again in an amended judgment, several provisions regarding child support, limited duration alimony and equitable distribution of assets had changed substantially.
Contesting the Reasoning of a Family Court Judge
While the spouses did not take issue with the trial court's determinations of child custody and parenting time (which remained constant throughout), they both appealed with respect to several of the final financial provisions. In legal terms, they argued that the trial court "abused its discretion because its findings and conclusions were not sufficiently substantiated by the facts in the record."
The panel of appellate judges unanimously held that the trial court had deviated from its obligation as factfinder due to the long delay, and further held that the findings bore "minimal resemblance" to the court's earlier conclusions. The appeals court was sufficiently concerned about this practice and the effect on fundamental due process expectations to refer the trial judge's actions to the New Jersey Conference of Family Presiding Judges for further review.
In the end, the case was reversed and remanded for a new trial with a different judge. While not every divorce requires an appeal, this case underscores the importance of enlisting a New Jersey divorce attorney to work diligently in defense of a client's financial interests.
Article provided by Jeffrey W. Goldblatt Law Office
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