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Relief for Payors Suffering After High Net-Worth Divorce

Relief for Payors Suffering After High Net-Worth Divorce

In a recent post-judgment motion following a high net-worth divorce, a modification motion by payor resulted in a finding that the court must consider not only changes in the payor’s income but also changes in the payee’s income when hearing motions for modification. In Heard v. Dunbar The judge hearing the divorce did not include any findings regarding the terms of the parties’ Property Settlement Agreement. Defendant earned $800,000 per year working at Goldman Sachs until 1997 when he resigned after accusations of fraudulent activity. The parties had saved $800,000 and defendant became a day trader working with their personal funds and increased the value of their investments to $8,000,000.00 by 2000, when the parties separated. In the next 2 years the value of the portfolio decreased to only $304. Defendant returned to the financial industry as the manager of a “start up” investment fund and earned only $15,000 in 2003 when the parties entered the Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). Plaintiff was employed as a psychologist and earned $52,000 per year in 2003. Although the defendant earned only $1250 per month, the PSA called for him to pay $1885 per month in child support. Although defendant later represented, in 2011, that the payment was based on the presumption he could return to his previously high earning levels, no information was set forth in the PSA regarding how this figure was arrived at other than to state it was in accordance with the “marital standard of living” but the standard of living during the marriage was not set forth in the agreement. The PSA also called for defendant to provide plaintiff $2,000,000 in assets as equitable distribution in lieu of alimony, pay up to $250,000 for the child’s college tuition and obtain a $2,000,000 life insurance policy. Defendant ultimately developed a career in real estate and, by 2011, was earning $119,000 annually while plaintiff’s income had increased to $115,000 per year. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Enforce the agreement and defendant filed a cross-motion to decrease his child support and college tuition obligations. An Essex County Family Court Judge denied defendant’s motion finding no appreciable or permanent change in circumstances from 2003 to the present time, granted plaintiff’s motion, failed to acknowledge plaintiff’s substantial increase in income and made no findings regarding the denial of defendant’s motion to reduce college payments and insurance. In its opinion, the New Jersey Appellate Court set forth the standards for modification as requiring consideration of the circumstances of both parties and that the reasons for all findings of fact be set forth clearly on the record. If you are seeking a modification of child support or alimony, you should consult an experienced family law attorney immediately in order to protect your rights. For more information on child support, custody, parenting time/visitation, adoption, dissolution of a civil union, marriage or domestic partnership, modifications, alimony, palimony or other family or juvenile law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney regarding your specific matter.

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