Sale of Apartment Abroad as Part of New Jersey Divorce Decree
July 24, 2017
In a recent New Jersey divorce case, the defendant challenged the equitable distribution of marital assets and the alimony that had been awarded to him, as well as other rulings. The couple had been married for 24 years. The plaintiff was 56 years old and still working, while the defendant was 79 and retired. The plaintiff earned $92,419 each year as income, and the defendant got $13,000 yearly in the form of Social Security benefits.
The couple went to trial, at which the court awarded the defendant $27,500 each year as open durational alimony. The court allocated to each of the spouses equal shares of their personal property, an investment account, a pension, and marital credit card debt. The court ordered the couple to sell a Buenos Aires apartment that the defendant expected to be worth $350,000. The couple was also ordered to share college loans for their child, and the court required the defendant to pay 40% of the child’s college costs for his senior year. The plaintiff could keep the defendant’s share of the investment account to satisfy these obligations.
The defendant appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence presented at trial for the alimony and support rulings as well as the equitable distribution ruling. The appellate court explained that alimony shouldn’t be a factor in determining equitable distribution, even though equitable distribution was a factor in alimony. The defendant claimed the court had improperly distributed their marital assets, among other things.
The appellate court reasoned that the purpose of equitable distribution was to effect a fair and just division of marital assets, and the lower court had to engage in a three-step process. It needed to decide which property should be subject to equitable division, determine the value of the property, and decide how to equitably allocate it. The court is also supposed to consider factors specified in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1. The way the property is distributed is within the lower court’s discretion.
The lower court can allocate both property and debts. The debts can be deducted from the total value of the estate. In this case, the court didn’t find the defendant’s appeal meritorious. The defendant and the plaintiff had lived in the apartment in Argentina until 2005 before coming back to the United States. The defendant argued that the court hadn’t looked at the property value or the costs of the sale, and the court noted that there was some dispute over the apartment with the plaintiff’s child from another relationship who lived there.
The trial court had awarded the defendant 65% of the apartment sale proceeds and asked him to also pay 65% of the carrying costs until it was sold. The appellate court reasoned it was the parties’ obligation to present the appraised value of the apartment. Since the parties hadn’t provided an appraisal, the lower court had done what it could. The appellate court refused to reverse the lower court on this point on the basis of the defendant’s claim that the son would interfere with selling the place. There was no competent evidence showing a lien or another obstacle to selling it. The appellate court affirmed this part of the lower court’s ruling while remanding the case on issues of life insurance and college expenses for the couple’s child.
If you are considering divorce in Bergen County, and you are concerned about your financial security, it is important to retain an experienced and aggressive alimony attorney to seek an appropriate outcome. Contact the lawyers of Leopold Law at (201) 345-5907 or through our online form. We have attorneys available who can handle all of the aspects of a divorce.