Beata Culen v. Matthew Culen (App Div., 2nd Dep’t)

Plaintiff (hereafter “the wife”) and the defendant (hereafter “the husband”) were married in August 1992. During the parties’ marriage, the husband owned and operated a diving services company called Hudson Marine, Inc. (hereafter “Hudson”). The wife was a full-time mother and homemaker. In January 2009, the wife commenced this action for divorce.

In September 2012, the parties stipulated to the value of Hudson of $421,000. Subsequently, a trial was held during which the Supreme Court awarded a credit to the wife with respect to Hudson of $105,250, or 25% equitable distribution. The Supreme Court also awarded the wife maintenance for eight years in the amount of $2,200 per month for the first five years and $1,000 per month for the last three years.

The determination of the amount and duration of maintenance is based on the unique factors of every case and is decided at the discretion of the trial court. Such factors include the standard of living of the parties during the marriage, the distribution of marital property, the duration of the marriage, the health and present and future earnings capacity of the parties, the availability of the party seeking maintenance to become self-supporting and the reduced or lost lifetime earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance.

The determination of equitable distribution is also based on the factors and circumstances specific to the case. Such factors include the income and property of each party at the time of marriage and at the time of commencement of the divorce action; the duration of the marriage; the age and health of the parties; the loss of inheritance and pension rights; any award of maintenance; any equitable claim to, interest in, or direct or indirect contribution made to the acquisition of marital property by the party not having title; and any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.

The husband contended that the Supreme Court erred in awarding the plaintiff a distributive share of Hudson in addition to maintenance. According to the Appellate Court, the Supreme Court did not err as Hudson is a tangible income-producing asset.