J.E.V. v. K.V., 426 N.J. Super. 475 (App. Div. 2012). Before Judges Cuff, Lihotz and Waugh.
Opinion by Cuff, P.J.A.D.
Issue 1: Did the trial court err in awarding limited duration alimony rather than permanent alimony where the parties had been married nine years and the mentally ill wife was economically dependent on her husband who earned a substantial income?
Holding 1: No. Limited duration alimony was appropriate under the circumstances as the trial court appropriately found that the wife was capable of working, the marriage was intermediate in length and complete economic dependency existed for a limited time. The defining distinction between permanent and limited duration alimony is the length of the marriage. When the dependent spouse is unable to earn enough income to maintain the marital lifestyle, this factor is an appropriate consideration in determining the length of the term of the limited duration alimony – not as to whether permanent alimony should be awarded. The ten year term awarded in this case was appropriate because it allowed the wife to remain the primary caretaker of the children, with the assistance of household help, until the youngest child enters college.
Issue 2: Did the trial court err in denying the wife’s request for a credit under Mallamo v. Mallamo, 280 N.J. Super. 8, 12 (App. Div. 1995), relative to underpayment of the pendente lite tax reserve?
Holding 2: No. The trial court appropriately found that the husband overpaid support during the pendente lite period and the wife should have trimmed her expenses in the second year after she discovered a shortfall for her tax liability in the first year. She had ample funds from her equitable distribution, alimony and child support to pay her tax liability.
Issue 3: Did the trial court err in awarding one-third of the wife’s counsel fees rather than the full amount requested?
Holding 3: No. The trial court’s findings were supported by substantial and credible evidence.
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.