Clark v. Clark: If alimony is still warranted, the court should consider the impact of the egregious conduct on the amount of alimony awarded.
By David M. Wildstein, family lawyer
Clark v. Clark, 2012 N.J. Super. LEXIS 168 (App. Div. 2012). Before Judges Messano, Lihotz and Kennedy. Opinion by Lihotz, J.A.D.
Issue 1: Should the wife’s theft of $345,000 from the marital business be deemed egregious fault under Mani v. Mani, 183 N.J. 70 (2005), that should be considered as a factor in awarding alimony?
Holding 1: Yes. The wife’s criminal conduct transcends economic impact; she betrayed the marital vow of trust and violated social norms which equates to egregious fault. “Once the court determines there is an egregious fault it must decide if the conduct obviates an award of alimony. If alimony is still warranted, the court should consider the impact of the egregious conduct on the amount of alimony awarded.”
Issue 2: If the court awards the wife alimony, should there be an offset for one-half the amount of money that the wife stole from the husband?
Holding 2: Yes. Although alimony and equitable distribution are distinct, wife has unclean hands due to her dishonest behavior.
David M. Wildstein is a senior shareholder in the New Jersey law firm Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer P.A., and chair of the firm’s Family Law Team. He has exclusively practiced family law for over 40 years, been a member of several New Jersey Supreme Court Committees that have shaped the rules and procedures for family law in this State, and lectures to lawyers and judges at the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education.
The validity of a spousal support waiver depends on when it was executed; the waiver executed before the enactment of the UPAA is void.