Man Seeking Repayment For Divorce Mediation Costs Turns To Court
- June 13, 2014
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In the New Jersey Appellate Division case, Gille v. Gille, the Plaintiff Carl B. Gille appealed for a post-judgment reconsideration of a 2013 Family Court Order that directed that he and his ex-wife pay for divorce mediation in proportion to their earnings. The parties in this case were married in 1991 and had four (4) children together. In 2011, they decided to divorce. During the parties’ marriage, the Plaintiff earned a substantial salary as a hedge fund manager earning close to $4,000,000 a year between 2006 and 2009. Beyond this, a substantial amount of assets were accumulated during the parties’ marriage. Upon the matter being scheduled for trial, the Family Court judge suggested that the parties attempt to resolve the issues of their divorce using mediation. The parties chose a mediator and the Plaintiff paid the $7,500 retainer cost. The parties eventually reached an agreement which was incorporated into their divorce judgment in 2011. Afterward, the Plaintiff argued that he and the Defendant informally agreed to split the cost of the mediator, but was unable to provide proof of this. In a Court Order issued in 2013, the judge directed that the Plaintiff and Defendant pay the balance due to the mediator, $14,185, based upon their percentage of income for 2010 – which represented the last year in which financial information was available prior to the agreement being executed. It is from this Order that the Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the lower court. In its decision, the Appellate Division notes that the Family Court judge’s allocation of payment regarding the parties’ mediator fees was considered to be a cost that was “engendered by the matrimonial proceeding,” the review of which is governed under the abuse of discretion standard. Furst v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc., 182 N.J. 1, 25 (2004); Rendine v. Pantzer, 141 N.J. 292, 317 (1995). The Plaintiff argued that the trial court erred because it did not conduct a plenary hearing to resolve the issue of the mediator’s fees, but the Appellate Court found that this argument was moot because the request was not previously made and the court will only “consider questions or issues properly presented to the trial court when an opportunity for such presentation is available.” Neider v. Royal Indem. Ins. Co., 62 N.J. 229, 234 (1973). The Appellate Court opined, in any event, that the Plaintiff’s claim that he and the Defendant had an oral agreement that they would equally share in the mediator’s fees was without merit because he was unable to prove such. The court agreed with the Plaintiff that the Defendant benefited as much as he did from the mediator’s services, but the issue for the court turned on the great disparity between the parties’ earnings. Therefore, requiring the parties to contribute to the fee in proportion to their earnings represented a reasonable and equitable resolution and therefore no abuse of discretion was found. If you and your partner are considering mediation as a means through which to proceed with a divorce it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about mediation, divorce, post-judgment modification, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.