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Is John Waldorf a Deadbeat Dad or Victim of Harsh NJ Alimony Laws?

NJ Supreme Court releases Waldorf from NJ Alimony prison

The NJ Supreme Court ordered the release of John Waldorf from Hunterdon County Jail on Monday December 17, 2012, after serving 7 weeks for falling behind in alimony payments. Under the terms of the order, he must pay his ex-wife $1,000 a week beginning Tuesday and get a job from which the Probation Division can garnish his wages within 30 days  [via NJ Law Journal].

“Defendant’s failure to comply with the conditions of the stay will subject defendant to such sanctions, including incarceration, as may be ordered by the Chancery Division,” the order says.

Waldorf, who divorced his wife of 11 years in 2011, was ordered to pay $2,000 a week in alimony to his ex. That amounts to $104,000 a year. In addition he was ordered to pay $3,300 in child support. The problem is that Waldorf has only been taking home about $90,000 a year on average, according to Eden. Eden said he has Waldorf’s tax returns dating back to 2000. The highest income reported by Waldorf during the marriage was $147,000 before taxes according to Eden. In most years Waldorf made $90,000 to $120,000 before taxes. His average take home pay has been about $90,000 a year [via NJ.com].

Mr. Waldorf has been embraced by various advocacy groups for alimony reform in NJ.

“He has a very extreme story,” says Tom Leustek, the president of N.J. Alimony Reform. “Any news coverage that explains alimony reform helps our movement.”

However, the attorney representing Waldorf’s ex-wife presents a very different picture of Waldorf:

“John Waldorf is not the poster child for alimony reform,” she says. “He voluntarily left his job in an effort to deliberately deny support to his wife and child.” DeTorres says Waldorf tried to file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13, but had the application rejected after a judge said he appeared to be lying about his assets and liabilities.

NJ alimony at a glance

According to the Weinberger Law Group, there are 5 categories of alimony:

  • Pendente lite alimony—also known as temporary, pendente lite alimony is awarded during the divorce process in order to preserve the financial status quo that existed during the course of the marriage, pending a final divorce decree.
  • Rehabilitative alimony—designed to allow the spouse (who is receiving the support) to strengthen their skills through education and training, the purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to reintegrate lower earning spouses into the workforce, by providing them with the tools necessary to find gainful employment. In general, the payment duration for rehabilitative alimony is short-term.
  • Permanent alimony—this form of NJ alimony is typically awarded after a long-term marriage. The purpose of permanent alimony is to allow the party who is receiving the alimony to live a lifestyle reasonably comparable to that which he or she had enjoyed during the marriage.
  • Limited duration alimony—is also referred to as term alimony because it provides for payments to be made for a specified number of months or years. The start date and end date of a limited duration alimony award are fixed. In general, limited duration alimony is used when a permanent alimony award is deemed to be too long (usually due to the length of the marriage and/or other relevant alimony factors).
  • Reimbursement alimony—this type of NJ alimony recognizes the contribution that one spouse made to the other spouse’s career, education, or advancement.

NJ Alimony, Maintenance Statute, 2A: 34-23 provides in part:

“Pending any matrimonial action or action for dissolution of a civil union brought in this State or elsewhere, or after judgment of divorce or dissolution or maintenance, whether obtained in this State or elsewhere, the court may make such order as to the alimony or maintenance of the parties, and also as to the care, custody, education and maintenance of the children, or any of them, as the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case shall render fit, reasonable and just, and require reasonable security for the due observance of such orders, including, but not limited to, the creation of trusts or other security devices, to assure payment of reasonably foreseeable medical and educational expenses. Upon neglect or refusal to give such reasonable security, as shall be required, or upon default in complying with any such order, the court may award and issue process for the immediate sequestration of the personal estate, and the rents and profits of the real estate of the party so charged, and appoint a receiver thereof, and cause such personal estate and the rents and profits of such real estate, or so much thereof as shall be necessary, to be applied toward such alimony and maintenance as to the said court shall from time to time seem reasonable and just; or the performance of the said orders may be enforced by other ways according to the practice of the court. Orders so made may be revised and altered by the court from time to time as circumstances may require.

The court may order one party to pay a retainer on behalf of the other for expert and legal services when the respective financial circumstances of the parties make the award reasonable and just. In considering an application, the court shall review the financial capacity of each party to conduct the litigation and the criteria for award of counsel fees that are then pertinent as set forth by court rule. Whenever any other application is made to a court which includes an application for pendente lite or final award of counsel fees, the court shall determine the appropriate award for counsel fees, if any, at the same time that a decision is rendered on the other issue then before the court and shall consider the factors set forth in the court rule on counsel fees, the financial circumstances of the parties, and the good or bad faith of either party. The court may not order a retainer or counsel fee of a party convicted of an attempt or conspiracy to murder the other party to be paid by the party who was the intended victim of the attempt or conspiracy.”

a.     In determining the amount to be paid by a parent for support of the child and the period during which the duty of support is owed, the court in those cases not governed by court rule shall consider, but not be limited to, the following factors:

(1)     Needs of the child;

(2)     Standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;

(3)     All sources of income and assets of each parent;

(4)     Earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children including the cost of providing child care and the length of time and cost of each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment;

(5)     Need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education;

(6)     Age and health of the child and each parent;

(7)     Income, assets and earning ability of the child;

(8)     Responsibility of the parents for the court-ordered support of others;

(9)     Reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent; and

(10) Any other factors the court may deem relevant.

Continue reading the NJ statute…

He said-She said

Waldorf’s former spouse adds a touch of spice to the story:

Waldorf moved to Guatemala shortly after quitting his job, but returned at the behest of his new girlfriend. DeTorres says Superior Court Judge Ann Bartlett, who has heard some motions in the ongoing litigation, earlier ruled that Waldorf had purposefully taken actions to become “underemployed” and thus unable to make his payments.

According to DeTorres, her client has custody of the couple’s 16-year-old son, cannot work because she has Lupus and a degenerative bone disease. In addition to the alimony, she receives Social Security disability payments

John Waldorf denies:

 That he quit his job in order to be underemployed. He says American Water fired him as part of a restructuring. He works as a private consultant, earning $120,000 a year, he says. Waldorf also takes issue with the claim that his ex-wife cannot work. “I’ve already paid her $400,000,” he says. “She just wants to be a dependent person.”

Commentary

Do you believe a civil court judge should be empowered by statute to order a former spouse jailed for non-payment of alimony or support? I don’t. I also don’t believe:

  • In debtor’s prison
  • A person should lose their hand for stealing a loaf of bread
  • The death penalty
  • That the Republican Party has its collective finger on the pulse of middle class America

I do believe that family court judges have the unenviable task of “splitting the baby.” One cannot live as cheaply as two. Parents can make a joint decision to delay purchasing a new pair of shoes for their child if money is tight. However, when the family unit is no longer intact, that new pair of shoes may become a cause celebre.

There is one element of the NJ statute, among many, that I find confusing. Why are spouses entitled to maintain their former life style after the divorce? If there is sufficient assets to go around, then fine. However, if one spouse has to make a change, why shouldn’t both spouses? In my humble opinion, a family unit experiences ups and downs during coverture.  Sometimes children can’t get the new pair of shoes, or a car of their own when they turn 17. This is sad, but true.

I think it is totally reasonable for both parties to share the new lifestyle many times necessitated by a divorce.

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44 Responses to “Is John Waldorf a Deadbeat Dad or Victim of Harsh NJ Alimony Laws?”

  1. cjosborn December 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    So very true. I was threatened with a warrant for my arrest when I got laid off, then going before the Judge to try and get my Alimony reduced after entering the civil secotor after a military career, the Judge denied this posting a 1957 ruling Bonano v Bonano in my face telling me I had to figure it out. However, my Ex wife was awarded 145.00 alimony and 155.00 Child support all the while there was only about a 5600.00 difference in income between what we made.

    Unreal how New Jersey get’s away with this crap.

    • admin January 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      Dear cjosborn,

      Good evening.
      I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment. I was on the other coast for the holidays visiting with the California side of our family.

      What a shame! I totally despise the use of incarceration or the threat of incarceration to secure money.

      The larger, more troublesome issue to me is using alimony to somehow equalize life styles AFTER a divorce. I just don’t get it.

      • cjosborn January 3, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

        Thanks for the reply Larry, Since writing on this blog, my case has yet taken another turn in the ways of New Jersey justice. I got promoted from an hourly position to a salary position. well that changed my tax information which again ran my name through the NJ computer system.
        Well, they automatically forwarded another copy of the court order to my employer, stating that I need to pay this. {Keep in mind that my CS and alimony is already coming out of my military pension} so there is no need to even have this information even shared with my employer. Upon calling the office, My “PO” ASK’S ME, how I got back in arrears! Now, HE is the one controling this, HE is the one that Sent the information to the US Government, I have NO CONTROL over this situation. So I asked him, How it is that I am supposed to know this when HE is the one controling this.
        He sends me a document showing these $2000.00 “and some change” according to him. However the documents show that I have paid more than I have been charged. So again, I ask him how I can be in arrears, to which I have not received response other than I am in arrears and I will pay it, HOWEVER, I can go before the Judge with yet another motion, loosing time and money from work, only to have the same *%($# Judge tell me “No, Pay it!” because she already hates men.

        • cjosborn January 3, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

          There is way more to this, I have documents showing payments, and such, however, I don’t want to hog your post.

          Thanks

        • admin January 4, 2013 at 10:58 am #

          Dear cjosborn,

          Good morning.
          You are really stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.

          Trying to navigate the court system of any state is not an easy journey. Family law is especially difficult!

          You may wish to think about hiring a lawyer to help you straighten out your situation.

          PS…You’re not hogging my blog! I welcome all civilized conversations.

          Good luck.

          Best,
          Larry

  2. jennifers December 26, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Although this is an extreme case, it does demonstrate some of the issues and bias of divorce. I know many men and women with onerous alimony “obligations’. These people are paying month after month, year after year, sometimes large amounts of money as in this case. When the day comes that they can no longer afford to pay, be it via job loss, disability, salary reduction, retirement, not only do the courts not provide relief, but they are labeled “deadbeat” and thrown in jail.

    It is time to remove alimony from divorce. Divide the assets, provide a small, reasonable stipend it that is needed for a short period of time in lieu of assets, and let people go on to live their own life. Some will succeed, some will fail, but that is no different than anyone else.

    To have one person forced to give half or more of their earnings, with no real relief, for the rest of their life is cruel. To imprison them because of this is mind-blowing if one really stops and thinks about it.

    • admin January 3, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      Dear Jennifers,

      Good evening.
      I apologize for the delay in responding to your excellent comment. I was in California (SF to be exact) visiting with my daughter, son-in-law, and the best grand daughter in all the land.

      I totally agree with your thoughtful, well-stated, opinion.

      Thanks so much for sharing it with all of us.

  3. Jane December 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    I think most people would agree that Mr Waldorf is a victim of the horrendous, barbaric alimony laws in NJ. How could he be a deadbeat when he has been paying out more than he can afford? It seems that in NJ the alimony payer is not entitled to a decent standard of living. I think the payers need to get together with a class action lawsuit against the state and the legislators. They are doing NOTHING to help the situation even though they are fully aware of how the economy has affected most people. In a marriage, the man and woman would have to work together to change their standard of living but after divorce, only one is required to suffer the brunt of it all. Please write the legislators and tell them CHANGE IS NEEDED!!

    • admin January 3, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

      Jane,

      Good evening.
      I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment. I was in San Francisco (the city by the bay) spending some wonderful time with my super grand daughter (and her parents).

      Kudos for a passionate, thoughtful comment on an area that needs to change. Thank you for sharing your opinion with us.

    • Jane January 4, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      Larry, Thank You for your reply. So glad that you had some quality time with your grandaughter and her parents.
      As for the alimony laws in NJ.. they are just insane, or should I say it’s the way they are interpreted.
      I pray everyday that someone in Trenton will see the light about how many people are suffering in this state. I have written to Gov Christie a few times but it is falling on deaf ears, I guess. It seems to me that maybe all of these payers must find a way to exit the state! I know that I am encouraging my family member to do that but when his business is in NJ, it is difficult.
      Thanks for being the one voice of reason!

      • admin January 4, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

        Jane,
        Thank you so much for your kind reply.
        I hope things work out for the best (under difficult circumstances) for your family member.
        Best,
        Larry

  4. pinespar December 27, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    Ms DeTorres (ex-wife’s attorney) is lying when she avers that I voluntarily left my job to somehow to deny my ex-wife. That is completely untrue. I was downsized thru business reorganization. Please give me your e-mail and I will send you my severance contract as factual proof.

    Ms DeTorres also says that my Bankruptcy Case was rejected because Judge Lyons thought that I was not being truthful. This again is a fabrication of the truth by DeTorres. You may contact my Bankruptcy Attorney Allan Gorsky at 609 890 1500 who will verify the facts.

    Ms Detorres is not a good source of truth about this matter because she is under investigation by the NJ Ethics Committee, from a grievance complaint that I filed. Ms. DeTorres stole certain monies that I had deposited into her Attorney Trust Account, by Court order, and admits as such in the Court Trial Transcripts.

    As far as whether my Ex-wife can work I offer up the following information such that the public can judge she ability to work. My Ex is a Legal Analyst and has been for almost 20 years. She graduated from Case Western Reserve Law School. Over the last 5 years of this divorce matter she has written thousands of pages of pleadings. She does have lupus which is easily controlled by medication. Being a legal analyst is not taxing from a physical stand point, but requires that you have knowledge of the law and are capable of putting your knowledge to pen. She could work is she was so inclined, however she will not accept the responsibility and feels that the world owes her a living. This sets a horrible example for our son. Unfortunately she is a “deadbeat mom”.

    • admin January 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

      Dear Pinespar,

      Good evening.
      I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment. I just returned from a visit with my wonderful, one year old grand daughter.

      Your case is an example of the horrors of divorce. My purpose for writing this post was to call attention to the divorce laws, and the harsh consequences these laws can inflict on the parties to a divorce.

      It was not to provide a forum for criticizing your wife’s attorney. Any person can file an ethics complaint against an attorney, and it will be “investigated.” This is not the place to litigate your ethics dispute with Ms. De Torres. If I find she had a right to remove the money from her trust account, your comment will be deleted.

      Your case has garnered public support, and offered a glimpse of the major bumps and bruises that will inevitably result from matrimonial litigation.

  5. oranopas December 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    How can a debt, that can never be paid off (life time alimony), ever meet the criteria of being “reasonable and just”?

    • admin January 3, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      Oranopas,

      Good evening.
      I apologize for the delay in replying to your comment. I was away visiting my almost brand new grand daughter.

      You raise a great point. However, there is the option of returning to court for “changed circumstances.”

      Thanks for taking your valuable time to comment.

      Best,
      Larry

  6. ShiningBeacon January 23, 2013 at 4:32 am #

    Those are some pretty sensible comments.

    Regardless of whether John Waldorf is a saint or the devil himself, there is something wrong with a court that would do either of these two things:

    (1) Impose such a heavy burden of support that he becomes, essentially, a slave. Since everyone has a right to pursue happiness, the State should adjust alimony so that the worker remains the main beneficiary of his work rather than passing judgment about whether the person is working hard enough. That would keep proper incentives in place for the person to keep working. A side benefit would be that everyone would see the alimony payment as a support payment rather than an entitlement, which is at the heart of many toxic emotional issues. Finally, even if you don’t accept this standard, it is clear something is broken with the system for obtaining adjustments. No one should ever be required to pay someone else more than they can earn.

    (2) Imprison him to enforce lifestyle support for someone else. Sure, it’s great that New Jersey wants his ex-wife to live well, but…don’t they want him to live well, too? Isn’t the whole concept of alimony about trying to equalize outcomes? Putting him in jail in order to help someone else, well, in some way the State is doing the opposite of the underlying principle. It is clear that the State actually has no one’s interest in mind here, except perhaps to create an example of the awesome power of the judge that will make us all cower in fear.

    I am curious if you think that reform is needed. Or is the bar association right that NJ’s alimony laws are among the most advanced in the nation and only need a tweak?

    • admin January 23, 2013 at 9:11 am #

      Dear Shining Beacon,

      Good morning.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughtful comment.

      One of the joys of blogging is to post an article that triggers well reasoned, eloquent comments, like yours and the other comments.

      Personally, I believe New Jersey’s alimony system is broken and needs a major overhaul. It should start with a systemic recognition that divorce means looking forward, not backwards, to establish the standard of living for both spouses. A system that rewards one party by ordering the other party to pay money so that he or she can maintain a former life style is ludicrous.

      With that said, I don’t think its about power crazy judges. Family law judges have the incredibly difficult task of enforcing outdated, ill-conceived laws. The judges are the “messengers” of a broken set of rules. There are currently two Bills pending in the NJ legislature to fix the laws. Hopefully, they will see the light of day, and Governor Bluto will sign them.

  7. ShiningBeacon January 24, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    You can blame it on the law, but it can’t be entirely that.

    We have laws against imprisoning debtors and against coerced servitude. The family court judges often ignore these high level laws, at least in spirit if not in outright contempt. In the Waldorf case, the NJ Supreme Court had to step in so that this poor man would not languish in jail without ever having committed any crime.

    If reform takes place, it would need to be child-proof, consisting of guidelines that cannot easily be overlooked by judges with strong biases or distorted by divorce lawyers seeking “controversy” as a means of subverting justice.

    • admin January 24, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      Dear Shining Beacon,

      You can blame it on judges and the law, but what about the spouses that do their best to circumvent the spirit of the law? How about some accountability on the part of a “deadbeat” spouse?

      Are you saying that there are no divorced spouses that avoid paying any money for child support or alimony at all costs?

      It is wonderful to advocate your position with passion. I love it; however, accountability is also a super character trait.

      I’ve made it clear on this post and in my comments, I hate extreme remedies for any civil wrong. I despise the concept of “debtor’s prison.” But, it has been my experience in handling family court cases that fault lies with BOTH parties for every “divorce predicament.”

      Thanks again for taking your valuable time to comment and continue the conversation.

      Best,
      Larry

  8. ShiningBeacon January 25, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    How about some accountability on the part of a “deadbeat” spouse?

    I suppose that’s the crux of it. There’s a moral judgment here that spouses are accountable, perhaps for their entire lives, to another individual. But, it is not a clear part of a marriage contract that people who marry are accepting a lifetime responsibility for the financial well-being of another person. So, when you hold them “accountable”, you are holding them to a standard that they never clearly agreed to. The NJ law imposes this duty post hoc, for instance, on people who were married in different states, where the implied duties of a marriage contract may have been different.

    As long as the marriage contract itself is vague, the imposition of standards of accountability lack any real foundation. It will always be controversial, and some people who believe the NJ law is unjust will feel no compulsion to pay a high price to comply with it. Or, perhaps more extreme but also justifiable, they will view the law (and most likely the court system as well) as a corrupt enterprise that should be defeated by whatever means necessary.

    So, of course, both spouses lie, spin, and distort the legal process — it’s a natural consequence of a legal process with no clear moral authority.

    I am not a lawyer, but when I read through the Family Court blog you kindly provided a link to, the impression I get is that the whole thing is kind of haphazard, with no one really knowing what is fair. It’s an impossible task to judge what a fair outcome is.

    So, what duty does John Waldorf owe his ex-spouse? Not even God himself knows the answer to this question. The NJ Family Court certainly does not.

    It would be much cleaner and more morally correct to hold each adult in our society as responsible for themselves. We have built our society this way. Each person has the same rights as the other. Women and men have the same legal rights to education and employment. If we throw away the crutch of “lifestyle” support, the result would be that ex-spouses would be forced to step out of the shadows of dependency and take on the mantle of adulthood. Alimony should be rehabilitative only. That would put an end to these cases that border on violation of the 13th Amendment and the debtor prison laws.

    • admin January 25, 2013 at 8:18 am #

      Dear Shining Beacon,

      You make some wonderful points. However, the theme of “moral responsibility” and references to G-d run through your comment. Here is a simple version of the marriage oath that is administered by a Priest during a Roman Catholic marriage ceremony:

      “Couples wedding in the Roman Catholic Church essentially make the same pledge to one another. According to the Rite of Marriage (#25) the customary text in English is[1]:

      I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

      In the United States, Catholic wedding vows may also take the following form[1]:

      I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded(husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

      The priest will then say aloud “You have declared your consent before the Church. May the Lord in his goodness strengthen your consent and fill you both with his blessings. What God has joined, men must not divide. Amen.”[2]
      (via Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_vows)

      In Jewish marriage ceremonies, a prospective bride and groom sign a “Ketubah,” which is a marriage contract setting forth the rights of the parties (not enforceable, but symbolic of the promises made by the parties to a marriage).

      What are your thoughts on child support? Are both spouses responsible to support children born of the marriage after divorce? How do you suggest the amount should be set? Who sets it? By what authority?

      These are difficult issues that have many layers. Peal one off, and two more appear.

      Looking forward to your reply.

  9. ShiningBeacon January 25, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    Hi, I greatly appreciate your dialogue and the chance to discuss these issues. I’m a novice, but I hope that I have enough common sense to make some valid points.

    Alimony and child support are separate issues; I don’t want to conflate them.

    All parents have an obligation to support their children — and not just financially! If the State of New Jersey agrees that children are entitled to a certain level of support, then these duties should apply to all parents, not just the divorced ones.

    But, it’s a good question where you draw the line between a child and an adult. In one of your links to court issues, I found a case about whether parents should pay for their daughter to attend law school. It convinced me that sometimes the court carries parental obligations too far.

    It’s also a bit disturbing that the legal answer to adulthood is inconsistent. For voting, drinking, military service, for being tried for crimes, we have various ages at which one is declared an adult. But somehow when it comes to emancipation, we need a court to decide based on the circumstances.

    It seems like we could save ourselves a lot of trouble and just pick one age for emancipation. Beyond that age, parental support should be voluntary — the same for married parents as for divorced ones. We should not be wasting our societal resources on court cases to determine whether a parent should be forced to pay for graduate school for their young adult offspring. And, if we are going to require divorced parents to support their children in college, why would this not apply to married parents, too?

    Maybe just a comment about those marital vows. These are clearly aspirational vows. No one person can really promise to live up to these vows for the rest of his life, because success depends on both participants, not just the one. These vows are not enforceable. The two people making these promises to each other have hearts full of enthusiasm for their personal commitment, but their brains have not necessarily evaluated the full potential under New Jersey law to be caused to suffer if they — as a couple — cannot fulfill these promises. It would be difficult to construe that they have accepted this potential economic and legal obligation.

    The State of New Jersey accepts that the emotional bonds of the marriage may be broken, but asserts that the economic marriage cannot necessarily be dissolved. It steps in to administer and regulate the lifestyles of the divorcing pair — forever. Why accept the dissolution of the emotional bonds, but continue to enforce the eternal economic union?

    I think this enforcement is based not on the flimsy grounds of a marital vow, but rather on historical norms that date from an age when there were limited social and economic opportunities for divorcees and no social safety net to catch them. The consequences could be tragic.

    Those days are legally gone now. If anyone can make a valid claim of sexual discrimination, the EEOC will litigate their case free of charge. It would be a further step in the direction of gender equality for divorce to become a simple transition back to the life that you would have if you had not gotten married. If we had such a system, who would vote to go back to the present alimony system, which is expensive to administer, highly litigious, inevitably unfair, and puts in place all kinds of destructive incentives? Now, it is the family law system which is mainly responsible for tragic outcomes.

    My conclusion is, yes, John Waldorf is a victim of harsh New Jersey alimony laws. These laws are a dirty corner of our justice system. They bring the New Jersey justice system into conflict with some of the most treasured concepts of civilized society. People should not be jailed without committing any crime; people should not be forced into peonage. It needs to be fixed.

    LOL. I think I should stop now. :-)

  10. admin January 25, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Dear Shining Beacon,

    Well said. Well said, indeed.

    I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation.
    Thanks!

    Best,
    Larry

  11. ShiningBeacon February 6, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    I thought I might come back to this. There’s something that still bothers me. I just can’t get over it.

    The court released John Waldorf on some conditions. They required him to work and earn like $100,000 or something or else they would put him back in jail.

    Do you think that’s right? Isn’t that pretty close to slavery?

    I guess he has a state-imposed obligation to provide for his ex-wife. But, doesn’t he also have some rights for himself?

    Let me invent a case. Imagine, for a moment, that John Waldorf had been earning half a million a year as an international currency trader, working round the clock, and that the court set his alimony requirements accordingly. Then, at a certain point, completely burned out as a trader, John becomes a teacher, earning only 1/10th of his previous earnings. Take it for granted in my imaginary example that whether he had stayed married or gotten divorced, this was the inevitable path that his career was going to take. The way I see it work in New Jersey, the court would require him to continue paying alimony as though he earned $500K to support his ex in the “style to which she was accustomed”. Is that justified when that style would not have been maintained if the marriage continued? How would the Court know what a fair ruling would be? It’s unlikely they could really assess his earning capacity, since they cannot see into his mind.

    Even beyond this burn-out condition in my example, there are some people who, overburdened with alimony and highly resentful of it, would decide simply to stop working hard — to stop being a slave and let the world deal with the consequences. And, who could blame them? So, an alimony payor might intentionally quit his high-paying job in order to become a waiter or taxi driver. Of course, the state incarcerates these people, like they did John Waldorf. But, in a way, I think the State is to blame for creating this situation. If the State had a more sensible and fair approach to alimony, this would never happen.

    Perhaps John Waldorf was intentionally underemployed. I wouldn’t know. If that were true, then I can see how some people would find the ruling from the Supreme Court lenient (indeed two Supreme Court justices dissented in favor of keep John Waldorf in jail). But, I actually find the ruling entirely abhorrent. The court is effectively saying to Mr. Waldorf: Arbeit macht frei. Is that how the New Jersey Supreme Court really perceives justice?

  12. admin February 6, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Shining Beacon,

    Always great to hear from you and your ideas.

    My battle cry as a lawyer has always been good facts make good law and bad facts…
    In your hypothetical situation, as well as in “real life” it would be up to Mr. Waldorf to present a persuasive set of facts to convince a judge that his “job actions” were not intended to avoid paying alimony. And, John Waldorf, himself, would have to be a credible witness.

    When a witness takes the stand, his/her credibility is always in issue. If a witness, that has proven to be unbelievable, testifies to a fact…Or, if the facts make no sense to a reasonable person, a judge may not believe those facts Good facts + credibility is the formula for succeed in a courtroom.

    I am totally against the imposition of “life-time” alimony. It should be removed from the “tool-chest” of resources available to family law judges in divorce actions. But, unfortunately for Mr. Waldorf, “life-time” alimony was available to the judge who heard Mr. Waldorf’s case, and payment was ordered. Therefore, the next step is to determine the amount of alimony.

    The arguments you raise are viable, well-reasoned, passionate arguments against “life-time” alimony.

    Best,
    Larry

  13. ShiningBeacon February 7, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    Hi Larry, can we get you into the NJ State legislature to get the ball rolling on alimony reform? :-)

    • admin February 7, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Dear SB,

      Good morning.
      Always great to start my day with a shining beacon throwing some light on a subject.
      There are 2 bills pending in the state legislature aimed at righting some of these alimony wrongs.
      Hopefully, they’ll see the light of day.

      Best,
      Larry

  14. jrsygrl1181 February 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Larry: I am disappointed that you would leave Mr. Waldorf’s libelous statements about Ms. DeTorres on your blog. Ms. DeTorres did not “steal money from her trust account”. As you said, anyone can bring an ethics complaint against a lawyer and Mr. Waldorf has brought more than one frivolous retaliatory complaint against Ms. DeTorres. He also asked that Appellate court Justice Parrillo be charged criminally for ruling against him in a pre-appeal motion. He also made complaints against the Judge who decided his divorce case. If the ethics committee finds fault with Ms. DeTorres as a result of Mr. Waldorf’s complaints, then I would think it appropriate to re-publish his comment. But to leave it there now seems unfair to Ms. deTorres.

    Also, you say you are completely opposed to coercive incarceration under any circumstance? Well, what then would you do with a chronically recalcitrant spouse who simply refused to pay what he was court ordered to pay ( assuming as was the situation in this case, that the Judge undertook a comprehensive analysis of all the evidence, and found Mr. Waldorf had the ability to pay, that he had purposefully unemployed himself and then purposefully underemployed himself) the evidence is far too comprehensive to go into here but suffice it to say that New Jersey.com has Mr. Waldorf’s earnings figures all wrong. The court did not order Mr. Waldorf to pay more money in alimony than he earns. l noted some spokesperson cited his tax returns? Well the court specifically found that his tax returns were unreliable, based upon the fact that he lied on his tax returns from 2007 through 2010, purposefully deducting pendente lite alimony for two years in a row, claiming he was single one year (when still married) and improperly claiming head of household when He had left the marital home and the parties’ child lived with Ms. Waldorf in the marital home.). In fact Mr. Waldorf was audited and is now paying a hefty fine. The court’s determination of alimony was based on numerous other factors, including Ms. waldorf’s disability, her exorbitant medical costs, and the fact that Mr. Waldorf resides with his exceedingly wealthy girlfriend and she defrays expenses 100%, to name but a few. And mr. waldorf’s girlfriend/partner’s financial situation became part of the evidence because she became a codefendant in the case for a time as she had accepted wire transfers of secreted marital money Mr. Waldorf sent her from Guatemala. Again there are many other factors that went into this alimony award but the Judge was fastidious in offering his detailed analysis and explanation of all the factors that went into his decision. Maintaining Ms. Waldorf’s prior lifestyle was not possible nor was it the issue. Mr. Waldorf has refused to pay his court ordered alimony obligation from day one. So to get back to my original question, what would you do if you were the Judge and your orders were not being followed? All the judges in this case tried everything before resorting to coercive incarceration, which was the only thing that has been successful in getting Mr. Waldorf to comply. If you do away with coercive incarceration as a method of forcing the compliance of a recalcitrant spouse like Mr. Waldorf, what do you suggest be put in its place? Without an effective method of coercion, court orders are meaningless.

    • jrsygrl1181 February 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      Correction to above: it was Justice Fuentes, not Justice Parrillo, whom Mr. Waldorf asked be criminally charged.

      • admin February 23, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

        Dear jrsygrl1181,

        Good evening.
        Thank you for taking your valuable time to share you comment; and providing my readers with a first hand perspective of the flip-side of the Waldorf tale.

        I’ve made my opinion known in the commentary portion of the post. I am totally against imprisonment to enforce any civil obligation, whatsoever. I make that statement after practicing law for 35 years with first hand experience employing a variety of tactics to enforce orders and judgments against recalcitrant debtors (some successful- others not). There are many tools available to lawyers and judges to enforce civil orders and obligations. Jail should not be one of them.

        Unhappy clients and parties to law suits can make unsubstantiated, scurrilous attacks on lawyers. I think most fair minded, intelligent people would examine the source and the substance of the attack in arriving at opinions about right and wrong behavior. Attacking the other party’s lawyer or the judges in the case is disgusting behavior, in my humble opinion.

        Last, but not least, “your disappointment,” or approval is not a motivating factor in writing this blog. With that said, I love the fact that you respected your lawyer enough to scold me about leaving Mr. Waldorf’s “libelous statements about Ms. DeTorres on your blog…Ms. DeTorres did not ‘steal money from her trust account.’ ”

        I much prefer a client demonstrating passionate support for me than sitting on her fingers. I’m sure Ms. DeTorres agrees.

        • jrsygrl1181 February 24, 2013 at 10:38 am #

          Larry:

          It was not my intention to offend you by expressing my disappointment at your giving Mr. Waldorf a forum through which to defame Ms. DeTorres. It is difficult for me to see Ms. DeTorres being defamed and otherwise maligned, after she helped me by taking on my case at the eleventh hour after my prior attorney fell ill. Money was not a motivating factor for her, and she has suffered unfairly for her selfless act.

          Further, I am we’ll aware that garnering my approval was not a motivating factor in your starting this blog as you don’t even know me, so I am unsure why that needed to be said.

          With all due respect, you did not directly or specifically answer my question as to how you would go about making sure your orders of support were enforced when faced with a chronically recalcitrant spouse whose disrespect of the system was actually demeaning the process. Other than to offer that you have 35 years of experience and that there are many alternatives methods of coercion in a judge’s arsenal other than incarceration, I didn’t hear you mention one specifically that would be effective in addressing this situation. Support obligations are more than just a debt owed – more than just money. Also, The person facing coercive incarceration has many safeguards ensuring the protection of his or her constitutional rights, such as an ability to pay hearing before he or she is ever incarcerated as well as repeated ability to pay hearings ever two weeks thereafter. At some point the longer one remains in jail, coercive incarceration becomes punitive and the jailed deadbeat spouse must be released anyway. Unfortunately for me, my ex-husband learned after being jailed twice and twice paying the release figure to get out, that he was setting a bad precedent and decided to try a different tactic: Sit in jail, and cry foul to the press and lie about the facts, further demeaning the system. Because he lives with his multi-millionairess girlfriend in her house, and because he has no expenses, unlike many others, he could and can afford to play chicken with the judge and sit in jail for as long as necessary until his incarceration became punitive and he would have to be released. That point was never reached in this case because his appeal still had not been filed and the Supreme Court decided to let him out under strict conditions, while his support obligation continues to accrue (now exceeding $75,000), and he continues to pay less than half of his court ordered obligation and continues to drag his feet in delaying the filing of the appeal.

          • admin February 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

            Dear Jrsygrl,

            …Nor is it my intention to offer legal advice about the steps I would take to collect your money from your former husband.

            This blog post is about more than you and your case. It’s about the issues raised by your case, such as coercive incarceration, and permanent alimony. Further it is not a platform for you to publicize your displeasure with your former spouse and make other ad hominem attacks.

            I approved this comment to give you an opportunity to respond to my reply, and to demonstrate the good, bad, and ugly of the divorce process.

            No further comments of yours will be published.

    • cjosborn February 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

      jrsygrl,

      I am going to throw the wrench in the motor for a second here. granted, each case and each divorce is different. However, and to be honest, the only knowledge of this divorce is what I have read in this blog. However, I have spent many an hour in divorce court with two judges and watched many a lawyer go before these judges, mine as well as myself included.
      Divorce court in New Jersey is the wild west! Lawyers do pretty much what they want with alimony and the judges just sign off on it. There is NO GUIDELINES what so ever if they are they are hidden deep in the bowls of the NJ Bar assoc. which in my own humble opinion after having to deal with the judicial system are pretty anatomically correct!
      Court is not fair. My Ex was supposed to ensure that I had copies of my childrens report cards, be informed of well being and have knowledge of any other issues regarding the children in return for my child support , This was documented in the final judgment. Further, my Ex was supposed to not talk distastefully about me, or to anyone involved with me.
      Because of my Ex’s arrogance, my son has not talked to me in over 8 years. I had to continually take my ex to court to get records of education, medical information when they were ill or injured, and yes, find out about Police activity. Every time this was brought to the bench, she was given a “WARNING” and told not to do it again.
      However, I lost my job, and they were ready to throw me in jail My PO was going to issue a warrant for my arrest here in Ga, to have me extradited to New Jersey for failure to pay after three weeks! Not to mention that I an currently in a fight with my PO over a$2000.00 difference to which he is adding even more on to my payments when the math clearly shows THEY OWE ME at the admission of the documents he gave me!
      The point I am trying to make is if the courts are going to issue coercion orders for payment, they should be issued going the other direction as well.
      As for the Judges of New Jersey, Well, I will tell you, when a judge looks at me after cutting me off from reciting a federal law about my pension, and tells me she is going to do what she wants and doesn’t care what I have to say, Well, Yes, its time to do some “SPRING CLEANING” around the judicial system!

      • admin February 24, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

        Well said. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  15. ShiningBeacon February 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    It is wrong to imprison him for so many reasons, it’s probably pointless to write them all out.

    To begin with failure to pay alimony has not been deemed a crime by our legislators. It is not for the Judges to make it one. I am sure that our legislators had good reasons for not making it a crime. History is full of tragic stories related to debtor’s prisons.

    Second, there are other remedies and they are adequate. Wage garnishment is already harsh enough. Seizure of assets is also available. These two things will make things very unpleasant for Mr. Waldorf.

    Further, I think it is questionable whether alimony really has any legal basis to begin with. The contract requiring John Waldorf to pay alimony was undoubtedly obtained under duress and without consideration.

    In any case, it is certainly wrong to elevate anyone’s obligation to another person to such a level that they have difficulty to sustain it and to threaten them with incarceration if they cannot. I believe this violates the anti-peonage statutes of federal law and probably the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. At a fundamental level it violates our constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness.

    I am not surprised, if it is true, that Mr. Waldorf has hidden income and assets, chosen to work at a lower level, and tried to defeat such a large lifetime alimony award by whatever means possible. I believe this happens when people feel the burden put on them is unsustainable and unfair. This kind of behavior is a consequence of the NJ legal system.

    The award of over $100,000 per year to someone else for lifetime is quite majestic. I am pretty sure that no matter how long he was married or what the conditions of divorce, no one really OWES such a service to another person. It is not in compensation for anything. Ms. Waldorf did not lose a lifetime annuity of this amount as a result of serving as a wife.

    So, as much as I sympathize with Ms. Waldorf’s frustrations with the enforcement of the court’s orders, I think virtually every nasty detail of this case is motivated by the inherent unfairness of NJ’s alimony laws.

    If there were no alimony, or only transitional alimony, there would be none of this. No bitter words, no lies, no hiding of assets, no wasted time in court, no jail sentence, no underemployment, no alienation of parental affection. Ms. Waldorf would adjust to a lower standard of living reflecting her disability checks, asset position, and her ability to work however she can. And, much as it is probably hard for anyone to believe, I think she also would also be happier, because she would not be able to maintain a sense of victimization or entitlement. People adjust to their new situations if they are forced to. But, no one can adjust to being made to support someone else, particularly someone they dislike, for the rest of their lives.

    I really hope there is alimony reform in New Jersey. Every time I read anything about this I become more sure that this is needed.

    • admin February 24, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      Dear SB,

      You are truly a shining beacon of reason.
      Thanks, SB.
      Best,
      Larry

  16. dty456 March 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Can you imagine if the IRS acted like the NJ Family Court? “Ok – We see that you made $150,000 back in 2006, so even though you only made half of that this year, you’re still required to pay the tax on $150,000!” How absurb would that be?

    • admin March 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

      Dear dty,
      Almost as unjust as permanent alimony.
      Thanks for sharing your comment.
      Best,
      Larry

  17. Brandyfitz32 March 13, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    I have been following this topic for quite some time now. Whether John Waldorf is a deadbeat dad or not I have no idea. Nor do I know if his ex wife refuses to work. For all it’s here is my story.

    I am dating a man I will call Bill. Bill and his ex wife were married for just under 19 years. Bill has a secure, or reasonably secure job, making a decent living and the ex wife, at the time anyway, was working in a nail salon.
    The long and short is, the judge awarded permanent alimony of $825.00 a month. She did not stay home to mind the children to allow him to get ahead in his profession, they have no children.
    There is absolutely nothing stopping her from either going back to school or learning a new trade so that she could obtain a better paying job.
    So he continues to pay…every month.
    What I will never understand, is just because their marriage ended (both of their faults, and she is actually the one that filed for dissolution) how come he may pay, what amounts to be a very hefty fine for that marriage ending?
    Yes, he earns more than her per year, but what does that have to do with anything. They both bare responsibility for the marriage ending. How come he is the only one being affected monetarily by it?
    By no means am I saying she is living “high on the hog” with her $825.00 a month, but I am sure it is a help to know it is there. (This is not even all she receives. If he ever finds himself in a position where he could retire (which is highly doubtful) she gets half his pension and he also must pay to keep a $200,000 life insurance policy for her)
    To add insult to injury, I am divorced. When me and my ex husband divorced we had a 2 year old child. I was awarded full custody and my ex husband is an alcoholic and I was awarded $200.00 a month in chiild support which most of the time I never received because he was in and out of rehab or working under the table so I had no way to proof he had an income.
    My boyfriend and I will never marry. The reason for that being that if he ever lost his job and could not pay the alimony they would be able to garnish my wages, which is beyond ridiculous.
    Anyway, sorry that my story has taken so long to tell and for the rant. Just another example of our broken system.

    • admin March 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your very important and symptomatic of a broken system story, Bf. Best, Larry

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