Husband Wanted To Terminate Alimony That He Wasn't Even Paying
By Snyder & Sarno on July 28, 2016
In Knox v. Knox, the Appellate Division affirmed three different Family Part orders: (1) a June 30, 2014, order reducing the husband’s alimony obligation by $300 per month for 3 years while the wife cohabited; (2) an April 15, 2015, order denying the husband’s motion for reconsideration of the amount of the reduction; and (3) a July 24, 2015, order allowing the mother to claim one of the children as a tax deduction.
The April 2008 Dual Judgment of Divorce (DJOD) required the husband to pay the wife $525 per week in alimony. On January 20, 2011, the husband and wife agreed to reduce weekly alimony to $275 per week if the husband paid an additional lump sum of $12,000 each February. However, in February 2011, the husband was charged with a criminal offense and suspended from his job as a firefighter without pay. The court granted his motion to suspend his alimony obligation for 90 days, during which time the unpaid alimony would accrue in arrears. The court also granted a series of motions to continue the suspended payments.
In late 2012, the husband made a prima facie case that the wife was cohabitating with her boyfriend and moved to terminate his alimony obligation. After two plenary hearings, the Family Part found that the wife and her boyfriend stayed together on and off for 3 years, but maintained separate residences and were responsible for their own expenses. However, when the husband’s alimony obligation was suspended, the boyfriend had given her some money to pay her mortgage. As a result of the wife’s cohabitation, the court reduced the husband’s alimony obligation by $300 per month for those 3 years, but denied the motion to terminate his alimony obligation. The court also found that the husband had not made any of the lump sum payments required and ordered that the $31,200 the husband owed be added to his existing arrears. In addition, because the wife and her boyfriend got married on April 22, 2014, the order terminated any ongoing alimony obligation as of June 20, 2014.
On the husband’s motion for reconsideration, the court found that alimony should have been terminated from the date of the marriage, April 22, 2014. As a result. the court credited the husband for the additional two months that he paid, but otherwise denied his motion. The husband had already filed another motion seeking to claim their younger daughter on his taxes. A different judge denied the motion based on a February 2014 order, which provided that the husband and wife would rotate declaring the children on their taxes. The order further provided that when the older daughter was emancipated, they would take turns claiming the younger daughter until she became emancipated. The husband was scheduled to claim the older daughter in 2014, but she got married and was thereafter emancipated.
The Appellate Division affirmed largely for the reasons set forth by the lower courts. The Appellate Division gave due deference to the lower courts’ finding that the wife was credible in her testimony during the cohabitation hearings and accordingly affirmed the $300 per month reduction. The Appellate Division upheld the denial of the husband’s motion for reconsideration because the lower court’s decision was well supported by the record. Finally, the Appellate Division rejected the husband’s argument that he should have been permitted to claim the younger daughter as the parent of primary residence. The Appellate Division noted that the lower court has the “power to exercise authority to effectively allocate exemptions.” Accordingly, under the terms of the February 2014 order, the lower court properly denied the husband’s motion.
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