value of law practice

In the recent unpublished Appellate Division matter of McDermott v. McDermott, A-0631-07T1, Decided February 20, 2009, the Appellate Division remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings on the amount of loans taken during the marriage from plaintiff’s family and the distribution of responsibility for repayment of those loans.

The parties were married for nearly 30 years.  Plaintiff/husband was an attorney with a solo practice and defendant worked at his office for many years, helping to raise their five children and eventually finding employment outside the home with a local school district.  During the marriage, the parties primarily relied upon the income earned from plaintiff’s law practice.  This income fluctuated throughout the years, in part due to the economy and in part due to plaintiffs bouts of depression.

During the 15 day trial in this matter, testimony was offered that during the course of the marriage, plaintiff made some unilateral decisions with regards to the parties’ finances, including taking loans from his family and purchasing property without notifying defendant, who only found out during trial.  Defendant claimed that she only knew of very few of the loans given by plaintiff’s family, however evidence submitted at trial indicated otherwise.  Plaintiff’s sister offered credible testimony that the total amount of loans given was $283, 398.50 of which only $6,300 was repaid.

After the trial, the trial judge issued a written decision, which in part, obligated defendant to repay plaintiff’s sister the amount of $57,165.31 as her share of loans made to the marital partnership; valued plaintiff’s law practice at $100,000 of which defendant was entitled to half; compelled plaintiff to pay $2,000 per month in limited duration alimony for a period of 6 years; and ordered plaintiff to pay $49,000 of the $80,202.70 counsel fees incurred by defendant in the divorce litigation.

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