MARITAL LIFESTYLE AND ALIMONY

Defendant appealed from the trial court’s orders, entered on remand, amending the judgment of divorce by increasing defendant’s alimony without enumerating the marital lifestyle and denying reconsideration while reducing the life insurance required to secure plaintiff’s alimony obligation. The parties had been married for a long time, with defendant ceasing employment following the birth of the parties’ first child. Plaintiff’s compensation was capped at $2 million per year, but ebbed and flowed with his employer’s financial performances. The trial court ultimately calculated plaintiff’s annual net income by averaging five years of earnings prior to the complaint; the court affirmed the calculation of plaintiff’s income. The court also affirmed the trial court’s description of the marital lifestyle, which included the purchase and renovation of multiple homes, owning multiple boats, placing the parties’ children in boarding schools, and taking family vacations costing upwards of $150,000 per year. However, the court reversed the alimony determination because it was unable to correlate the trial court’s findings of the parties’ expenditures with the alimony award. The court remanded for the trial court to make numerical findings of the marital lifestyle and explain how the alimony award correlated to those findings. On remand, the trial court increased alimony but reduced plaintiff’s life insurance obligation. On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court set alimony based on defendant’s pendente lite budget, which was far below the marital lifestyle. Defendant further argued that the trial court disregarded the remand order by failing to make numerical determinations of the marital lifestyle and correlate them to the alimony award. Defendant also contended that the trial court engaged in improper speculation in reducing plaintiff’s life insurance obligation. The court agreed with defendant and reversed and remanded the trial court’s orders, again directing the trial court to numerically determine the marital lifestyle and apportion the expenses to the parties. (Approved for Publication)

First published in the NJSBA Daily Briefing 2/25/2020