In a New Jersey Divorce, May One Spouse Receive All Of The Marital Assets?

In a New Jersey Divorce, May One Spouse Receive All Of The Marital Assets?

Yes, but only under certain extreme circumstances. The lawyers at our East Brunswick, New Jersey law firm, (located in Middlesex County) know that when a judge of a New Jersey Family Court is determining the division of marital assets, various considerations are weighed by the court. Under New Jersey Statute 2A:34-23.1, the court seeks specific findings of fact based on factors like the length of the marriage, the economic circumstances of each party, their debts and liabilities, as well as various other non-tangible factors. Beyond this, the judge considers the current and former relationships of the parties along with the fact that post-divorce peace and welfare is one of the primary concerns in the division of assets. Our attorneys at our law firm have handled many cases with similar facts since our law firm opened in 1996.

In Sgro-Lofaro v. Lofaro, the parties ended their marriage in April of 2010 after a lengthy trial. In the final judgment of their divorce, the Husband was ordered to pay alimony and child support, and the Wife was also to receive the full proceeds from the sale of their home. The order also included an award for attorney’s fees for the Wife, and directed the Husband to pay their two childrens’ college tuitions.

After this final order, the Husband appealed, arguing that the judge had abused her discretion by awarding the Wife the sole proceeds of their marital home, along with several other complaints as to the judge’s decision. The Husband argued that the judge incorrectly imputed his income, and that the Wife should not have received the entire marital asset in the final judgment. In the judge’s decision in Lofaro to award the Wife the full proceeds of their marital home, the judge referred extensively to the Husband’s behavior as a “miscreant” and his repeated bad faith failure to pay family expenses over the course of several years.

In the years following the divorce, the Husband had defaulted on loans, failed to comply with several court orders requiring him to pay college tuition for his daughter, and violated several orders to pay for maintenance costs related to parties’ marital home. Further, the judge found the Husband’s stated income suspect, as he was expending large amounts of money buying and selling different properties and expensed a $20,000 loan to “a girlfriend relative” although he claimed to have an income of $40,000 per year. The court did not find the reports the Husband submitted with regard to his income to be credible, and further noted that his “testimony did not comport with the marital expenses testified to at trial.” Taking these factors into consideration, the judge awarded the Wife the proceeds from the sale of the home in order to pay for her attorney’s fees, reimburse the expenses she had supported on behalf of their children, and to satisfy judgment creditors due to the Husband’s debt issues.

Because the Husband failed to comply with prior court orders, did not provide adequate support to his ex-Wife or their children, and displayed deceitful behavior in his dealings with the court, the judge found it in the best interest of both parties to grant the marital asset to the Wife. The Husband’s prior and consistent failure to pay family expenses following the divorce as well as his continued misrepresentation of his income resulted in continuing grievances for both his ex-Wife and his two daughters. In weighing the factors of New Jersey Statute 2A:34-23, this information is also taken into account in deciding the division of marital assets.

The Appellate Division, considering the Husband’s appeal, found no merit in his argument that the judge had abused her discretion by awarding the Wife sole proceeds to the marital home. The judge, in determining the parties’ equitable distribution of the marital estate, correctly considered the factors set forth in New Jersey Statute 2A:34-23.1, but is not limited only to these factors. The Appellate Division stated that the trial court was correct in taking into consideration the Husband’s consistent failure to pay court-ordered family expenses in granting the marital asset to the Wife. The judge granted the proceeds to the Wife as a means of reimbursing her for expenses owed over several years of missed payments and ignored court orders by the Husband. The Appellate Division stated that the judge carefully considered the factors of Statute 2A:34-23, and took into consideration the fact that the record is scattered with various instances of the Husband’s failure to abide by support orders.

Where there is credible evidence in the record supporting the judge’s findings, the Appellate Division will not find an abuse of discretion on the trial judge’s part. Here, the Husband demonstrated a pattern over several years of an inability to comply with court orders to support his family. In the interest of justice in fairly dividing the marital assets so as to avoid an undue burden on the Wife and two daughters, the Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s decision in awarding the Wife the entire marital asset. When determining the division of a marital estate, the court will look holistically at the Husband and Wife’s economic and family relationship in order to determine the fair allocation of the marital assets.

Please contact our law firm if we may be of service to you or a loved one.

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