In the unreported Appellate Dvision matter of Panza v. Panza, the Court reversed the trial court and remanded the matter back to determine how the litigant should be compensated for the delay in the division of an asset subject to equitable distribution. The distribution was delayed because of the husband’s failure to get a QDRO finalized.
Plaintiff appealed an order denying his motion for reconsideration of a previously entered order, which modified the parties property settlement agreement (“Agreement”), specifically altering equitable distribution of his Exxon Mobil savings plan. The parties had agreed that plaintiff’s Exxon Mobil savings plan would be divided equally for the coverture period, which they defined as the date of the marriage to the date the complaint for divorce was filed. The Agreement was incorporated in the judgment of divorce.
Two years after the judgment of divorce, defendant moved to compel completion of the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”). Shortly, thereafter defendant moved to change the date of the coverture period from the date the complaint was filed to the date the judgment of divorce was entered, which would substantially alter her share of the plan proceeds. Plaintiff cross-moved to enforce the original Agreement. Although the parties requested oral argument, the trial judge decided the motion on the papers, and without explanation, changed the coverture period from the date the complaint was filed to the date the judgment of divorce was entered. In the same order, the judge denied defendant’s request that the Marx calculation be used to divide the savings plan. (Marx v. Marx, 265 N.J. Super. 418 (Ch. Div. 1993), applies to defined benefit plans, not savings plans.)
The delay in defendant receiving her share of the savings plan was the result of Exxon’s failure to provide the necessary documents to the forensic account. “Defendant should be compensated for the delay, but the compensation should be in the form of interest earned on her share during the period of delay pursuant to the parties’ Agreement, not by altering that Agreement. Dworkin v. Dworkin, 217 N.J. Super. 518, 523 (App. Div. 1987).”