Reading the recently unpublished (not precedential) Appellate Division matter of Connaughton v. Connaughton  brought me back to my days of toiling as an account executive at an advertising agency in Manhattan. Our team often worked long hours and frequently traveled for client meetings, commercial shoots, and the like.

Advertising also was and remains notorious for forcing account and creative executives to switch from agency to agency in order to make more money over time.  For instance, a person who just joined an agency may be making tens of thousands of dollars more than a similarly situated person who started with and remained at the same agency throughout their career for no other reason than that the newly hired person came from a different agency.

The income situation in Connaughton was interesting in that Brian’s historical income increased as he frequently switched jobs and moved up the proverbial ladder.  Similarly interesting was Elizabeth’s income growth, which stalled once she left the workforce and gave birth to the parties’ child.  Specifically, the parties married in 1995, and a year later, Brian obtained a job with J. Walter Thompson while Elizabeth commenced a period of freelance work that lasted throughout the remainder of the marriage.


Continue Reading Imputation of Income in the World of Advertising

When determining an alimony award, New Jersey courts look at a variety of factors that are listed under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b).  At the very top of that list is "The actual need and ability of the parties to pay."  Similarly, when determining child support, one factor that courts in this State consider is "All sources of income and assets of each parent."  When determining a payor spouse’s income, courts will consider both the supporting spouse’s present earnings and potential earning capacity.

The question becomes more complicated when the payor spouse owns his or her own business.  Oftentimes tax returns do not tell the whole story and cannot be relied upon as the sole source for rendering an income determination.  For instance, that spouse may have a bank account under the business name, but uses it nevertheless for personal expenses.  Oftentimes such personal expenses are not accounted for on a tax return as income and it then becomes a matter of determining what the actual income level is.  Another example may involve the spouse being reimbursed through the business for personal travel expenses. 


Continue Reading Appellate Division Examines a Spouse’s Ability To Pay Support