PFISTER v. PFISTER (App Div, 3rd Dep’t)

Defendant-husband appealed from a Supreme Court judgment of divorce in which husband’s support obligations was based on an income of $85,000.  Husband argues that the Supreme Court should not have imputed additional income to him and should have imputed more income to plaintiff-wife.  The parties were married in 1998 and the divorce action was commenced in 2011.  During the marriage, the husband owned a property management business and claimed that he earned approximately $63,000 in 2010 and $43,000 in 2013.  The wife has two Master’s degrees and is a certified school counselor who worked part time in 2010 earning $18,000.  In 2013, wife disclosed income of $16,000 but the court found that she also worked a second part-time job making $2,125/month.  Thereafter, the Supreme Court imputed annual income of $44,447 to the wife and $85,000 to the husband based upon these facts.

In affirming the Supreme Court’s “sound” determination of the parties’ imputed income, the Appellate Court restated the lower court’s “substantial support” for its finding. There was sufficient evidence that the husband earned more than $120,000 per year until 2009 when he changed his method of accounting and that he had a history of paying personal/family expenses through the business accounts.  Furthermore, the court noted that the husband’s income decreased in a similar fashion during a prior divorce action and that his business’ gross profits were disproportionate to the net income.  With regard to the wife’s imputed income, the Appellate Court also agreed with the lower court in stating that the wife had two advanced degrees and it was proper to reject the wife’s claim that she should not be required to work full-time.