Robert A. Bonavito, CPA PC

Divorce Series Part 6: Divorce Case Law

My name is Robert Bonavito, New Jersey forensic accounting. This video is part of a series of videos where I discuss forensic accounting topics for educational purposes only. If this was a litigated matter, I would take a different approach, add different conclusions, based on different facts.

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Part 6 of our discussion on alimony, matrimonial issues, mainly in New Jersey. Today, we're just gonna cover a topic about case law. And the reason this is important is because when a legislator writes rules and laws for alimony purposes or divorce purposes, they can't think of every circumstance that's gonna come up. And that's why we have case law that kind of gives us insight on how to handle certain circumstances. And, of course, you know, case law is very important in the United States. It's, you know, hundreds or thousands of years old. And judges and attorneys love to refer to case law. They reference it a lot. And a lot of what we do as forensic accountants is based on discussions with the attorney and our point of view, and we kind of mingle that together, and we have something that should be acceptable to the courts. And, of course, there's all kinds of standards, we as forensic accountants have to have when we go to court. And, you know, the thing with case law is that attorneys love to apply it to every single case, even though all the facts and circumstances may not agree. And, you know, as a forensic accountant, who's been doing this for 30 years, a lot of what I hear in court, and how these cases are interpreted to the matter at hand, they don't really mesh. But, you know, unfortunately, there's not enough time or resources to investigate every single issue. But it's important to understand the case law. And I'm gonna just go over three cases that everybody likes to talk about.

The first case is Crews versus Crews. Now, this is a case that happened in 2000. And the reason this is important is because it discusses the importance of establishing the standard of living. And what's important about the standard of living is, okay, some people may need, you know, $3,000 or $4,000 a month to live, but some people require $200,000 or $300,000 to live. And in one of the series, we talked about the Case Information Statement. This helps establish what the lifestyle was during the marriage. And it's very important that this be done properly because you get really one chance to establish the standard of living. Once the case is over, that's the standard of living. So, this case, you can get on the internet. I suggest you read it. It covers a lot of stuff in detail. And, really, the burden... You know, if you get divorced, and there's a standard of living set, and you wanna go back and have a change of circumstances, for example, to increase your alimony and child support, you have're the one who has to meet the burden. You have to prove that, "Okay. I need more money because of this." But if your standard of living is established at $10,000, and you wanna go back for $15,000, that's not gonna happen. So, it's very important you understand what the standard of living is, you understand the CIS statement and take a look at this case. You may wanna read it and talk it over with your attorney.

The next one is Lepis versus Lepis. Now, this was a case back in 1980. This is an old one. And what it does, it talks about post-judgment modification of support obligation. We get tons of calls, "Okay, I have a change of circumstances. I wanna modify my alimony [SP]. I wanna increase my alimony. I wanna decrease my alimony. I wanna increase child... I want to decrease..." In this case, what this case does, it says that, again, you know, you're the one, if you wanna increase it, you have to will have to prove a change of circumstances. Okay? You can't just say, "Well, you know, I need more money because I wanna buy a new car." No, you gotta go in and say that, "I have X amount alimony, and it's not enough." And remember, you know, it's capped at the standard of living. You know, it's very difficult to get more than the standard of living. You can't go back and say, "Well, my spouse just hit the lottery for $10 million. Obviously, I should get more money." No, it doesn't work. But this case does allow you to go in and seek a modification, but then you have to prove that it's reasonable and actually win in court.

The next case is Mallamo versus Mallamo. And this really has to do with pendente lite. We have a session, one of the divorce and this is like four or five, where we talk about pendente lite. Okay? And what this is, is basically pendente lite is given at the onset of a divorce or, you know... And what it does is it keeps the non-moneyed spouse in the house and keeps the children fed and that kind of stuff. And what this case says is that, you know, the pendente lite should be the same as it was before the marriage. So, if you had a standard of living of $20,000 a month before the marriage, well, then maybe you should have, you know, $20,000 now less whatever money the spouse doesn't need, you know, that you spent on the spouse. So, this kind of says that, you know, you should keep the status quo. But, of course, what happens especially in New Jersey, the high cost of living in the state is, now, you have two households, and neither one can support themselves. But, you know, if there is enough money, this case basically says, "No, we need to keep the standard of living the same for the non-moneyed spouse and the children, and etc. You can stay in the house, you get the same...whatever you... If you get a new car every month, well, then you get to keep...continue to get a new car, if it's feasible. A lot of times it isn't.

So, these three cases, what I would suggest is if you're an attorney, obviously, you know these cases. If you're a forensic accountant or you wanna learn more about these, these cases are online. You can go and get them, and read them, understand them. And, you know, sometimes you gotta read them a couple of times. A lot of times, you know, if we have a big case, we'll go through them again because a lot of stuff does come up and a lot of what we do as forensic accountants is based on this. So, if you guys have any questions, you know, just leave it below on my YouTube channel. And one of my analysts [inaudible 00:06:28] will get back to you. We answer every single question. Appreciate your time. Thank you.

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