This was a good and bad week for Martin Brodeur, the goalie for the New Jersey Devils. On a good note, he passed Patrick Roy as the all time winningest goalie in NHL history. On a bad note, he lost his appeal of an alimony award in the Appellate Division. To see the opinion, click here. This is the second appeal in this case. To see the opinion in the first appeal, click here.
This was a 7 1/2 year marriage from the date of marriage until the date of separation. It was clear that it is was the parties’ intention that the wife would be a full time, stay at home caretaker of the children.
In the first appeal of this case, the Appellate Division affirmed the award of alimony to Melanie Brodeur in the amount of $500,000 per year but reversed the award of permanent alimony. In this case, the Appellate Division affirmed the award of limited duration alimony until the youngest child graduated from high school.
In the first appeal, the Appellate Division held that:
limited duration alimony is particularly suitable for a situation such as here when the marriage was of short to intermediate duration and the woman is young and has young children. The judge is able to fashion an award that provides financial support to the former wife while she cares for the children.
The Court then addressed the factors that should be considered in the decision of the length of the term, as follows:
The term should be informed not only by the age of the children, but also by the parties’ decision that plaintiff should be the primary and full-time caretaker of the children.
In the remand proceeding, Melanie sought alimony through the graduation of her youngest child from college in 2024. Martin wanted the alimony tied to the continuation of his career.
Martin signed a six year, $31.2 million contract extension in January 2006 (after the divorce), which will take him to the end of the 2011-2012 hockey season. To put this in perspective, during the term of this contract, he will earn more than $31.2 million, not including endorsements and any other income that he may have but only pay $3 million in alimony.
The judge rejected Martin’s position and granted alimony through he youngest child’s graduation from high school, given that the parties contemplated that Melanie would be the full time caretaker of the children.
The Court also rejected Martin’s argument that tying the term to the age of a child or life event, such as college graduation, would "masquerade" alimony payments as non-deductible child support in
violation of the federal tax code.
The Appellate Division noted that the duration in this case was longer than typically seen in the reported decisions regarding limited duration alimony, however, given the parties’ expectations regarding Melanie being the caretaker, and the fact that Martin could afford to pay the alimony lead to this long term of limited duration alimony.
The Court also reiterated that the issue of the term and amount of the limited duration alimony are separate issues and further, "nothing precludes a motion to reduce the amount of alimony once defendant retires and his post retirement employment and income is known." However, given Martin’s income set forth above, I think he will be hard pressed to successfully seek a reduction in alimony when he retires from hockey. Given his income for the remainder of his hockey career, he should have the ability to pay the alimony thereafter. In addition, should he make a motion at that time, I believe that Melanie would have a good argument that Martin was aware of his obligation and the fact that the career of a professional athlete is limited and thus, should have saved accordingly. Given the litigation in this case, no doubt we will be reading about this case again in 11 years, if not sooner.