No Extension Of Limited Duration Alimony
- December 29, 2014
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In the recent Appellate Division case from Morris County, Buscher v. Tully, a post-judgment matrimonial matter, the Defendant Steven Tully appealed from the Family Court’s Order granting the Plaintiff, Ann Buscher’s Motion to extend the period of her limited duration alimony. The parties in this case were divorced in 2007 after eighteen (18) years of marriage. The parties’ final divorce judgment incorporated a property settlement agreement (PSA). There were three (3) children born of the marriage one of which was almost seventeen, other eleven, and the final emancipated at the time of the divorce. Pursuant to the PSA, the Defendant agreed to pay limited duration alimony to begin after the parties’ sold their marital residence and to end in December of 2016. The parties also agreed to live together in the house after their divorce and until the home was sold. While they lived together after their divorce, the Defendant agreed to place almost all of his income in a joint account to assist with living expenses. The record indicates that the parties did not list the marital residence for sale in 2007 and the Plaintiff remained in the home until 2011, when she left with the parties’ youngest child. The Defendant remained in the home with the other unemancipated child until 2012. While the Plaintiff lived in the home she worked part-time, completed her undergraduate education and eventually obtained a Master’s degree. In 2013, post-judgment Motions were heard in which the Plaintiff requested that because the parties did not sell the home until 2012 she wanted her alimony end date to be extended. The Defendant argued that the court should enforce the plain language of the PSA which provided that alimony would not commence until the house was sold because when the parties entered into the PSA they did not know when the house would be sold and the agreement made sure that the Defendant would not have to pay both alimony and the carrying costs of the home at the same time. The Family Court granted the Plaintiff’s Motion to compel payment of alimony though 2020 concluding that the parties intended that the Plaintiff would receive nine (9) years of alimony. The Defendant appealed arguing that the court erred in awarding nine (9) years of alimony ignoring the plain language of the PSA and that the extension of limited duration alimony violated N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. In reversing and remanding the decision of the lower court the Appellate Court held that it discerned no basis in the PSA or extrinsic circumstances for the trial court’s conclusion that the parties intended to award the Plaintiff nine (9) years of alimony. The parties agreed to remain in the home for an indefinite period of time after the divorce, until the house was sold. During that time, the Defendant agreed to bear the majority of the home expenses and that these expenditures were undoubtedly a form of spousal support or alimony. Schorr v. Schorr, 341 N.J. Super. 132, 139 (App. Div. 2001); Mendell v. Mendell, 162 N.J. Super. 469, 475-76 (App. Div. 1978). If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your alimony obligation it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about alimony, post-judgment modification, equitable distribution, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.