ANTHONY SCIALABBA v. MELISSA SCIALABBA
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
DOCKET NO. A-4575-09T1
MELISSA SCIALABBA, n/k/a
July 8, 2011
Submitted March 29, 2011 - Decided
Before Judges Carchman, Messano and St. John.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FM-04-1651-02.
McDowell Riga, P.C., attorneys for appellant (Ellen M. McDowell, on the brief).
Charny, Charny & Karpousis, P.A., attorneys for respondent (Dawn Kaplan, on the brief).
In this appeal, we review an order modifying the child support obligations of a parent based on substantial change of circumstances. Defendant Melissa Kurtzman appeals from an April 13, 2010 order of the Family Part modifying the parties' stipulations of settlement, which had been incorporated in the parties Judgment of Divorce (JOD). The order reduced the child support obligation of plaintiff Anthony Scialabba from $3000 per month to $750 per month. We conclude that: 1) plaintiff failed to establish that there was a substantial change of circumstances warranting relief; and 2) that even if he did, the judge failed to give sufficient weight to the existing settlement agreement between the parties in making her findings of fact and conclusions of law. Accordingly, we reverse.
These are the facts adduced from the motion papers and plenary hearing conducted in response to plaintiff s motion to modify child support.
Defendant and plaintiff were married on March 31, 1990 and lived in Voorhees. The parties had one child, who was born in 1994, and is now sixteen years old. On August 6, 2003, after a thirteen-year marriage, the parties divorced, and a JOD was entered, which incorporated "stipulations of settlement"1 agreed to by the parties.
At the time of divorce, both parties were practicing attorneys; plaintiff had his own practice, and defendant was employed at a law firm in Philadelphia. Both plaintiff and defendant also have master's degrees in tax law. Specifically, defendant specializes in employee benefits law and was a partner at Wolf Block when the parties divorced. In 2003, she earned $163,000.
Plaintiff s practice focuses on the application of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). At the time of this application, he maintained his own firm, Scialabba and Associates, and owned a 100 percent interest in the practice. In addition to his law firm, plaintiff also held an eighty-two percent interest in Redwood Administrators, Inc. (Redwood), a third-party retirement plan administration company, which, in part, compiles demographic data about individuals using the plans. The two companies act as "one entity" and possess what plaintiff describes as a "symbiotic relationship" in that the firm develops its client base from Redwood's research, and Redwood survives through the law firm's financial support. In 2003, at the time of the divorce, his taxable income was $300,872. During this same period, plaintiff's net worth approximated $3.7 million.
The parties' son is a special needs child. He currently suffers from attention deficit problems and obsessive compulsive behavior. Consequently, he takes medication to control these medical issues, in addition to medication to monitor his weight. He attends a special public school for his needs and treats with a psychiatrist and a psychologist.
The JOD equitably distributed the parties property and defined their custody and child support obligations. With respect to the parties' property, the JOD enforced plaintiff's right to "retain his professional practice," equally divided the couple's various financial and retirement accounts and addressed the mortgage payments related to the parties' marital home in Voorhees. Although defendant remained in the marital home, the parties share joint custody of the child and maintain a visitation schedule that equitably divides their time with him. Although not set forth in the JOD, the parties shared parenting for approximately seven years.
The provision that prompted this appeal concerns child support. The JOD provides, in relevant part:
As  for child support, and effective August 1, 2003, Plaintiff shall pay child support directly to Defendant at the rate of $3,000 per month. Said support shall be paid $1,500 as of the first day of each month, and $1,500 as of the 15th day of each month. Said support shall be paid directly by Plaintiff to Defendant. . . .
As security for child support, each party shall be obligated to maintain life insurance. Plaintiff shall continue to maintain a minimum of $1,000,000 upon his life, designating Defendant as trustee for the benefit of [the child]. Defendant shall similarly be obligated to maintain a life insurance having a minimum death benefit of $225,000 . . . .
In addition to child support, the JOD also provides for plaintiff s "parenting time" schedule as well as plaintiff's contribution to the child's summer camp tuition. In the JOD, both parties waived alimony and agreed to pay their own counsel fees. Plaintiff is obligated to maintain major medical coverage for the child and pay defendant a lump sum of $65,000 to satisfy the equitable distribution provisions.
Another provision reflects that a previous "[c]ounterclaim" by defendant, in which she had "s[ought] compensatory or punitive damages for personal injury allegedly incurred by [her] and caused by [p]laintiff[,]" had been "dismissed with prejudice." The JOD does not specify the nature of those claims.
The JOD does not contain any language addressing modification of any of its provisions nor does it describe how the parties arrived at the $3000 monthly child support figure. Both parties agree that the $3000 figure is "outside" of the Child Support Guidelines (the Guidelines). Pressler & Verniero, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-A to R. 5:6A at 2429 (2011).
On March 24, 2004, just six months after the execution of the JOD, defendant moved, among other things, to enforce plaintiff's child support obligations because they had accrued $18,000 in arrears from September 2003. In a certification supporting her motion, defendant claimed that plaintiff had consistently "provid[ed] excuses as to why he c[ould not] pay" and had the "means [and] ability to pay" the $3000 a month given that his net worth had actually increased. According to defendant, only after she filed this motion "did [plaintiff] fully satisfy his child support obligation for this period of time."
During this period following their divorce, plaintiff's income began to decrease while defendant's increased. In 2003, plaintiff's taxable income from his firm was $300,872. His income tax return reflected that his wages were $299,000 in that year. In 2004 and until 2008, plaintiff's income decreased, with his wages in 2004 as $272,000 and in 2005 as $212,173. In 2008, they were $215,000. However, in 2008, he reported total income of $266,280, and in 2009, including his businesses, his net worth was reported on his financial statement as $5,993,953.
In explaining why he believed his income had diminished, plaintiff alluded to a slumping economy and a downturn in revenue from his various business ventures. With respect to his ERISA practice, plaintiff indicated that between 2005 and 2007, government "legislation . . . to change around the plans that govern executive compensation agreements" was enacted that essentially "knocked out a lot of [his] executive compensation work" from his legal practice. Meanwhile, a "recession [was] tearing through all of [his] businesses" and greatly impacted his ability to stay afloat; for example, a stagnant housing market forced many of his tenants in his rental properties to either leave or "beg [him] to reduce down their rents[.]"
To compensate for this loss in income, plaintiff began exploring other avenues to supplement his finances. Specifically, he increased his focus on "client development" by publishing and writing about retirement plans, "renegotiat[ed] . . . fees" with clients and became a guest lecturer at various conferences with brokerage companies. Nevertheless, he continued to "los[e] clients" given that many of them were "small businesses [that] [we]ren't going to set up executive compensation plans" "in a recession."
Defendant's income continued to improve in the years following the divorce. In 2003, her income was calculated at $188,400, which "included . . . compensation, dividends, a state refund, and capital gains." By 2008,2 her income exceeded $300,000.3 During this period, defendant transitioned from her defunct partnership with Wolf Block, to the firm of Littler Mendelson.
On June 24, 2009, plaintiff moved to either "terminate or modif[y]" his child support obligations "based upon a significant change of circumstances[.]" Plaintiff also sought the following: an equal division of the child's medical expenses and "life insurance polic[ies] in the amount of $500,000.00" for both parties; the ability to claim his son as a "dependency exemption for tax purposes"; and attorneys' fees. In a certification supporting his motion, plaintiff claimed the $3000 figure from the JOD was "based upon [his then] annual income of $260,000.00 and [defendant's then] annual income of $200,000.00." Consequently, given that his "income . . . decreased substantially while [her] income . . . increased[,]" plaintiff urged the court to terminate his support obligation because he and defendant "should be able to provide financial support for [the child] without contribution from the other party."
Defendant filed a cross-motion seeking, in part, to enforce the child support obligation in the JOD and dismiss plaintiff's motion. In a certification supporting her motion, defendant first noted that plaintiff failed to pay timely child support since March of 2009[,]" despite an income of more than $200,000. She also alleged that he lived a "lavish" lifestyle, and "ha[d] purchased over $6 million in real estate in the six years since [the] divorce and ha[d] likely paid at least $400,000 in cash to do so[.]" She also sought a reduction in plaintiff's visitation time, sought to move the child to Pennsylvania where defendant resided and sought to recalculate child support to impute income "because as the owner of his businesses he can control what goes into his paycheck[.]"
In response to defendant's cross-motion, plaintiff claimed he was "losing money" with each of his business ventures and, as a result, admitted that he had not paid child support since March 2009. He also asserted that child support should be based on a "comparison of our two incomes," rather than a computation of his income alone. Finally, he objected to defendant's motion to decrease his parenting time and refused to agree to allow the child to reside outside of New Jersey.
On the return day of the motions, the judge resolved specific issues, such as denying defendant's request to modify parenting time, ordering plaintiff to bring his arrears up to date and ordering plaintiff to pay defendant counsel fees of $650. As to the remaining issues, she ordered a plenary hearing.
Before the plenary hearing, defendant again moved to enforce child support resulting in an order compelling plaintiff to bring the arrears to date and ordering additional counsel fees to defendant.
At the hearing, plaintiff called defendant as an "adverse witness." She agreed that she and plaintiff had adopted a split custody arrangement in which the child would spend virtually every other night in a different parent's household. While she admitted that plaintiff paid his share of the child's expenses such as those for sports, activities and medicine, she noted she would often try to "reduce his cost[s]" by switching insurance carriers and buying their son's prescriptions on her own.
Plaintiff also testified and restated his arguments, citing the faltering economy and his reduced income as warranting a modified child support obligation. He repeatedly noted that because he paid half of the child's needs, including his "medical expenses" and his various sports activities, the additional $3000 per month was unnecessary. He countered that:
My position was because my salary has gone down over the years and defendant's salary ha[d] gone up substantially and . . ., we shared [our child] 50/50, I've always believed that . . . both parties are . . . amply able to pay for [our child's] support, and that there is no need for me to pay $3,000 a month and all the other costs that I pay for which generally total probably around $70,000 after tax . . . .
As to his various commercial and real estate properties, plaintiff claimed that these do not "generate any income." As for defendant's accusation that plaintiff lived a lavish lifestyle, plaintiff proffered evidence that he would save dollars wherever he could, spending only $7000 on his second wedding, driving a 1997 Mercedes with more than 200,000 miles on it and "us[ing] [his] credit car[d] points" to pay for vacation trips. He also had a $285,000 mortgage on his new home. Plaintiff conceded that he could pay the $3000 payment per month and claimed he would have to "borrow from [his] credit line" and dip into his businesses' cash flow in order to do so.
The parties both produced accounting experts. Plaintiff's expert, Sharon Bishop, described her methodology in computing the parties' income; in assessing plaintiff's, she "examined the financial books from [his] business[es] and deducted only the items that were listed as legitimate business expenses." Her research, which included using the "Child Support Guidelines" in determining wealth, revealed that defendant's income had increased between 2003 and 2008 while plaintiff's had decreased.
Defendant's expert, Martin Abo, employed a completely different approach and considered the parties' income to determine if plaintiff possessed the "ability to pay child support." He noticed that although plaintiff's salary "fluctuat[ed]" between dips and elevations, his "gross average income" between the five years was $330,000 if the court were to "add back expenses for entertainment, vehicle costs and . . . settlement payment[s]."
Defendant offered her "understanding of the child support agreement" and why she believed plaintiff had agreed to pay $3000 per month until the child was college-aged. Specifically, defendant argued that "she gave up her right" to a personal injury claim by negotiating the $3000 amount, in addition to "g[iving] up her right to alimony [and] attorney fees."
The judge concluded that plaintiff was entitled to a reduction in child support because he had proven a substantial change in circumstances. In her order, utilizing a Child Support Guidelines analysis and the methodology described in Caplan v. Caplan, 364 N.J. Super. 68, 88 (App. Div. 2003), aff d, 182 N.J. 250 (2005), the judge reduced child support to $735.50 per month, retroactive to June 24, 2009; provided plaintiff with overpayment credits "toward his arrears"; obligated him to continue paying for the child's health insurance premiums; rejected defendant's request for a tax exemption for the child; and denied all counsel fees requests.
In her opinion, the judge first observed that the parties had failed to use the Guidelines to "calculate . . . child support" and that the JOD was "silent as to the method" employed to arrive at the $3000 monthly figure. She then evaluated both experts' opinions and determined that Bishop was more "persuasive" and "credible" given that her "methodology" charted a more logical course in determining the respective incomes of the parties. She found Abo to be "unreliable" because he could not "support his findings" with "any facts or documents." In doing so, she concluded that:
Based on the testimony and evidence . . . [p]laintiff has met his burden of showing a substantial change in circumstance in both his and [d]efendant's income. The evidence corroborates that [his] income in 2003 was $310,992 and $252,788 in 2008 . . . [and] in 2009 was $209,000. The Court finds this is clearly a steady decrease and is a substantial change in . . . income. Defendant's income, on the other hand, has increased since the entry of the [JOD]. . . . The Court thus finds that [d]efendant's income, increasing by $125,519 . . ., constitutes a substantial change circumstance.
In arriving at the $735.50 figure, the judge described the mathematical calculations she used to assess child support in a high income case based on the parties' combined net income of nearly $300,000. She applied the Guidelines, various statutory factors from N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 and case law to compute the supplemental award and the amount of child support plaintiff should be obligated to provide. She considered the parties' equal parenting time, their remarriages and the child's needs as a teenager to justify her decision and avoided giving the child a "lifestyle with overindulgence" or "an inappropriate windfall[.]" As for defendant's claim that the $3000 was negotiated by the parties to compensate, in part, for a personal injury claim she would have otherwise entertained, the judge found it to be without merit as it was "not mentioned in the [JOD]" and the parties had expressly denoted "they understood [its] terms" "without coercion or duress."
This appeal followed.
Our review of a trial court's factual findings is limited. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 411 (1998). We will generally not disturb findings that are supported by "adequate, substantial, credible evidence." Id. at 411-12 (citing Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974)). Moreover, "[b]ecause of the family courts' special jurisdiction and expertise in family matters, appellate courts should accord deference to family court factfinding." Cesare, supra, 154 N.J. at 413. Consequently, a "trial court's factual findings 'should not be disturbed unless they are so wholly unsupportable as to result in a denial of justice.'" In re Guardianship of J.N.H., 172 N.J. 440, 472 (2002) (quoting In re Guardianship of J.T., 269 N.J. Super. 172, 188 (App. Div. 1993)).
Defendant urges that plaintiff did not meet his burden in establishing that there was a substantial change in circumstances to warrant a modification of the child support award. Specifically, she claims: the change in income was not a substantial change in circumstances; and the trial judge ignored a "bargained-for exchange" between the parties. She claims that the judge's analysis was faulty and also failed to impute income from real estate and business ventures. She also asserts that plaintiff application was not made in good faith. We need not address that argument as we are satisfied that defendant's other arguments are meritorious.
"[A]limony and support orders . . . are always subject to review and modification on a showing of 'changed circumstances.'" Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 146 (1980) (quoting Chalmers v. Chalmers, 65 N.J. 186, 192 (1974)). See N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 ("Orders so made may be revised and altered by the court . . . as circumstances may require."). See Martin v. Martin, 410 N.J. Super. 1, 5 (Ch. Div. 2009) (requiring the moving party to "establish that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the . . . order"). Where a reduction of child support is sought, "the needs and best interests of the child are . . . controlling." Gonzalez-Posse v. Ricciardulli, 410 N.J. Super. 340, 350 (App. Div. 2009). In considering an application for a reduced support obligation,
The proper criteria are whether the change in circumstance is continuing and whether the agreement or decree has made explicit provision for the change. An increase in support becomes necessary whenever changed circumstances substantially impair the dependent spouse's ability to maintain the standard of living reflected in the original decree or agreement. Conversely, a decrease is called for when circumstances render all or a portion of support received unnecessary for maintaining that standard.
[Lepis, supra, 83 N.J. at 152-53.]
"Whether a [support] obligation should be modified based upon a claim of changed circumstances rests within [the trial] judge's sound discretion." Larbig v. Larbig, 384 N.J. Super. 17, 21 (App. Div. 2006). See Gonzalez-Posse, supra, 410 N.J. Super. at 350 (finding the husband's reduction in income as being "an involuntary and substantial change of circumstances").
The narrow focus of plaintiff's application is not an inability to meet his obligation under the JOD but the fact that his income has decreased while defendant's has increased. Critical to the analysis is plaintiff's admission that he is able to meet his support obligation under the terms of the JOD.
Our concern about the judge's analysis here is two-fold: even though she found a significant change of circumstances based on the disparity in the parties income, she, first, failed to consider plaintiff's ability to pay, and second, failed to give weight to the JOD and the agreed-upon child support amount that resulted from a stipulated agreement between the parties. She also failed to recognize that the child support was part of an integrated agreement. In effect, the judge parsed one provision from the agreement and ascribed no value to the fact that this agreement resulted from a negotiated settlement of myriad issues extant at the time of the divorce.
In considering the dispositive arguments, we first identify critical findings made by the judge. Although she found that plaintiff's income had been "substantially" reduced, she recognized that the relevant income periods to be considered were between 2003 and 2008, as the parties had not yet filed their 2009 tax returns and complete 2009 information was not available. Although expert testimony was produced regarding the income of the parties, in actuality, the income levels were not in significant dispute except for defendant's claim that income should have been imputed to the plaintiff's substantial real estate interests. So, for the year 2003, when the parties entered into their agreement, plaintiff reported a total income of $300,872 of which $299,000 was W-2 income. For the year 2008, plaintiff's total income was $266,280, which included W-2 income of $215,000. For the same two years, defendant's total income increased from $176,400 in 2003 to $357,150 in 2008, which included partnership income as well as dividends and interest.
We again note that this application for reduction was not based on an inability to pay or financial struggles. It was motivated by what plaintiff perceived as defendant's increase in income. Moreover, as the record reflects, while plaintiff's income may have been marginally reduced, his assets have increased so that his net worth exceeds $5,000,000, primarily the result of real estate investments. At the plenary hearing, defendant emphasized that while he earned a very comfortable salary, due to his mortgages and expenses, the $3000 child support payment caused monthly cash-flow problems. The allocation of resources is a personal decision, but cannot be used as the basis for a change of circumstances. See Glass v. Glass, 366 N.J. Super. 357, 378 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 180 N.J. 354 (2004).
We question whether there was ever a threshold showing of "substantial" changed circumstances to warrant any adjustment to child support and certainly not the drastic adjustment ordered here. Neither Lepis nor the cases interpreting its mandates suggest that "any" change is sufficient to warrant modification. The standard is "substantial." Lepis, supra, 83 N.J. at 157. Moreover, the standard must be considered in the context of modification, not of an order for child support, but of an order that resulted from an agreement by the parties. See Schiff v. Schiff, 116 N.J. Super. 546, 561 (App. Div. 1971), certif. denied, 60 N.J. 139 (1972).
In her decision, the judge appeared to analyze plaintiff's income in depth, yet she paid little attention to issues that were relevant to plaintiff's economic circumstances. Although during the period from 2003 to 2008 plaintiff's income had been reduced by approximately eighteen percent, during that same period of time, he expended substantial funds to acquire additional assets including real estate and personalty that increased his net worth substantially.
An assessment of change of circumstances must be holistic. The analysis must consider not only the income set forth on tax returns but the economic interests of the parties that, if not utilized as current income, provide resources, both real and potential, to meet the need for family support. Heller-Loren v. Apuzzio, 371 N.J. Super. 518, 531 (App. Div. 2004). The judge gave little weight to these considerations and in fact rejected considering plaintiff's own valuation of his law firm at $1.5 million dollars. Whether that valuation "produced income in this amount" is not a relevant consideration. It is relevant, however, to plaintiff's financial resources and was worthy of consideration. In analyzing a change in circumstances, both spouses' income may be considered. Caplan supra, 364 N.J. Super. at 88. However, the consideration of income does not diminish the significance of the asset structure of the parties and the available resources necessary to fund and meet a support obligation. Walton v. Visgil, 248 N.J. Super. 643, 647-48 (App. Div. 1991).
We conclude that the change of circumstances alleged in the moving papers, and sought to be demonstrated at the plenary hearing, was insufficient to warrant modification of support. We fail to discern how an eighteen percent reduction in plaintiff's substantial income, which exceeds the Guidelines, even coupled with defendant's increase in her income warrants modification of the parties' agreement regarding child support. We note further that the judge failed to account for the "claw-back" sought by defendant's prior law firm in assessing defendant's income.
The judge made mention of the impact of parenting time as a factor in the change of circumstances, yet the parties agree that the present parenting time arrangement has been in effect for seven years so that factor should have been given minimal consideration in modifying an agreement for child support.
Our concern about the judge's analysis must focus on one additional factor. Although she mentions the agreement between the parties resulting in fixing child support at an above Guidelines amount of $3000 per month, she rejected defendant's argument that the award was related to the relinquishment of her Tevis4 claim, and her waiver of alimony and counsel fees. The judge said: "The Court finds Plaintiff's testimony to be credible, and finds defendant's testimony regarding her personal injury claim is not credible. Defendant's argument is not supported by any document and is not mentioned in the [JOD]." As we interpret the judge's comments, we perceive that the judge imposed some burden on defendant to establish the consideration or factors that resulted in the agreed upon child support. If so, this was error.
Any settlement agreement must be considered as an integrated whole consisting of various elements that have resulted from the give and take that is the hallmark of a negotiated agreement. As we noted in Glass, supra, 366 N.J. Super. at 373: "The [property settlement agreement] was an integrated agreement. It not only resolved issues of custody and visitation but financial matters including equitable distribution and spousal and child support. No one element stands alone and can be read without reference or consideration of the others." (Emphasis added.) See also Shifman v. Shifman, 211 N.J. Super. 189, 195 (App. Div. 1986) ("trade-offs between the distribution of assets and support obligations . . . may be taken into account along with all other circumstances in determining whether an award of alimony should be modified"); Savarese v. Corcoran, 311 N.J. Super. 240, 248 (Ch. Div. 1997) (citations omitted) ("we must look to the entire agreement to determine what the parties intended. In other words, integration of an agreement is favored"), aff d o.b., 311 N.J. Super. 182 182 (App. Div. 1998).
As we have noted, the judge parsed one provision of the agreement and measured it against another provision of the agreement. The agreement, standing alone was sufficient to establish that defendant had bargained away certain rights, as had plaintiff. Defendant did not assume any burden to establish facts related to the waiver of any rights and to the extent that the judge felt compelled to make a factual determination as to that issue, she erred.
The parties did not enter into a formal or fully drafted property settlement agreement (PSA) but entered into a stipulation setting forth agreed to provisions. We recognize the realities that a stipulated settlement, placed on the record and incorporated within the four corners of a judgment, may not contain the same expansive provisions as a formal PSA, yet still, the parties are entitled to rely on the stipulation as an agreement with all of the contract and enforcement rights of its terms. See Rolnick v. Rolnick, 262 N.J. Super. 343, 351-52 (App. Div. 1993). The judge failed to afford the agreement, and the consideration exchanged for the totality of its provisions, sufficient weight in her analysis. See Savarese, supra, 311 N.J. Super. at 248. This failure compromises the principle recognizing the significant public policy encouraging settlements, especially in matrimonial disputes. See Dolce v. Dolce, 383 N.J. Super. 11, 20 (App. Div. 2006); Avery v. Avery, 209 N.J. Super. 155, 160 (App. Div. 1986).
The motion judge further approached the award of child support as if there were no agreement in place. While she referred to the methodology in Caplan v. Caplan, 182 N.J. 250, 265 (2005) as well as the limitations prescribed by Issacson v. Issacson, 348 N.J. Super. 560, 583 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 174 N.J. 364 (2002), her assessment of the expenses attributable to the child failed to reflect that this was a high-income family and the stated expenses were neither exorbitant nor outside of the specter of the requirements of their special needs child. There was no hint of a "windfall" for the child or defendant. We note that the original child support amount was fixed when the child was approximately nine years old; he is now sixteen, and we have recognized that expenses do not decrease but increase over time. Walton, supra, 248 N.J. Super. at 647. We find no recognition of that factor in the analysis.
Finally, our reasoning applies with equal force to the reduction of the insurance policy that plaintiff was obligated to maintain. Absent a substantial change in circumstances and recognizing that the extant sharing of parenting time has been in place for approximately seven years, we find no basis for permitting a reduction in coverage.
In sum, we conclude that the judge erred by granting a modification of child support. She failed to give appropriate weight to the existing agreement. Most important, we conclude that plaintiff failed to demonstrate a sufficient basis for relief considering all relevant factors for such application.
We reverse and remand for the entry of an order denying plaintiff's application for modification of support and a reduction of the life insurance policy.
1 For purposes of this opinion, we refer generally to the JOD with the understanding that its terms resulted from a settlement agreement.
2 Although partial information was available regarding the parties' 2009 income, the judge indicated that 2008 was the last year with full income information.
3 Included in her income was a payment from Wolf Block. Defendant indicated that the firm is suing to recover those funds.
4 Tevis v. Tevis, 79 N.J. 422 (1979).