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New Jersey Court Orders Hearing on Ex-Husband’s Motion to Modify Support

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On March Sixth, the New Jersey appeals court decided in a post-divorce case that the ex-husband was entitled to a hearing on his motion to modify alimony and child support, despite repeatedly being denied by the trial judge. By the time the appellate court ordered the hearing, the lower court had already denied his motion to modify support, denied his motion for reconsideration, awarded attorney’s fees to the other side, and ordered him to buy a car for his daughter… and pay for the insurance too!

The couple in the case of Galante v. Galante divorced with three children in 2011 after a marriage of 25 years. In the settlement, the wife got the house, the 401k from one of the husband’s businesses, and the couple’s 2010 tax refund. The husband got the couple’s 2009 tax refund and retained his 51% interest in the three printing businesses he had acquired during the marriage, which were valued at nearly a million dollars.

The alimony agreement required the husband to pay the mortgage on the wife’s residence, along with taxes, insurance, and most of the utilities. He also agreed to cover her health insurance and pay her $400 a week until the house was sold. After the house was sold, the weekly alimony payment would increase to $1500.

Of the three children, one was still unemancipated at the time of the divorce. Rather than requiring an exact amount of child support, the settlement required the husband to cover all of the child’s expenses, in particular car, health, education and clothing expenses. Although the husband filed a motion to vacate the order as manifestly unfair, the court denied the motion.

Situation Desperate, Modification Requested

In his motion for a modification of alimony and support, the husband attempted to show a significant change in circumstances that would justify a modification. He showed how he was

hospitalized without insurance and stuck with a $16,000 medical bill. He also showed huge business losses and the collapse of his businesses. Further, based on his unmarketable job skills as a printer in this digital age, he was only able to get a job earning $2,500 per week, less than a third of what he was previously making.

Nevertheless, the court thought the husband did a woefully inadequate job of providing evidence to support his position. He tried again, producing documentation this time, but the court turned him down again, this time criticizing the husband for producing evidence he could have presented the first time around.

On appeal, the court held that the husband showed enough evidence to warrant a hearing on the matter. Once a former spouse makes an initial case for a modification, the judge has the discretion to decide the motion on the papers or hold a hearing. In this case, the ex-husband provided specific details about his troubles. The wife, who was opposing the motion, disputes the husband’s story and says he is hiding assets and income. These disputed facts should be decided at a hearing and not just on the motion papers, and that is just what the appeals court ordered in this case.

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