Young v. Santos-Young, A-0103-21

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
PartiesJOHN YOUNG, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. CATARINA SANTOS-YOUNG, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberA-0103-21
Decision Date22 November 2022

JOHN YOUNG, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.

CATARINA SANTOS-YOUNG, Defendant-Appellant.

No. A-0103-21

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 22, 2022


This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court." Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3.

Submitted October 25, 2022

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FM-12-2504-15.

The Law Office of Thomas R. Ashley, attorneys for appellant (Thomas R. Ashley, of counsel; Michael T. Ashley, on the briefs).

Deborah A. Rose, attorney for respondent.

Before Judges Messano and Gilson.

PER CURIAM

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Defendant Catarina Santos-Young appeals from the Family Part's March 8, 2021 order denying her motion for relief from the July 2015 final judgment of divorce (JOD) between defendant and her former husband, plaintiff John Young, and to reopen and amend the property settlement agreement (PSA) that was incorporated into the JOD. We provide some background based on certifications the parties filed in the Family Part.

Plaintiff and defendant were married in 1997 and had two children, a daughter born in 2000 and a son born in 2001. There were early tensions in the relationship before defendant was indicted and convicted of theft. She served a portion of her seven-year sentence before being admitted into the Intensive Supervision Program and released from custody. Prior to her conviction, defendant owned and operated a successful insurance brokerage business.

In approximately April 2015, the parties separated in contemplation of divorce, and, without counsel, executed the PSA in May 2015. Plaintiff at the time was Deputy Chief in the Elizabeth Fire Department. The PSA stated the parties would share joint custody of the children, and plaintiff would be solely responsible for more than $400,000 in marital debt, and plaintiff would pay: (1) defendant $72,000, reflecting two years of her rent obligations; (2) child support in the amount of $400 a month per child until June 15, 2020; (3) 100% of the

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children's college education; and (4) $62,000 as a lump sum advance for child support.

Plaintiff took title to the marital home and one of the parties' investment properties; they agreed to sell and split the proceeds of a second investment property. The PSA also contained a mutual waiver of alimony, but it made no mention of plaintiff's pension. Plaintiff and defendant appeared pro se at the divorce hearing; each testified they had entered into the PSA voluntarily, and both accepted the terms as fair and reasonable.

Plaintiff retired in 2019. On January 20, 2021, defendant filed a motion seeking modification and enforcement of child support and relief from the JOD pursuant to Rule 4:50-1 (the Rule).[1] Defendant said she was "under extreme

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pressure and duress" when she executed the PSA and "clearly . . . did not waive [her] interest in . . . [p] laintiff's pension." According to defendant, she and plaintiff "overlook[ed] including the [p]ension [in the PSA] because it was unliquidated at the time." Plaintiff filed opposition.

On March 5, 2021, the judge heard oral argument and issued a decision from the bench denying defendant's request to reopen the JOD, modify the PSA, and equitably distribute plaintiff's pension. The judge reasoned it was "not possible" to "rescind [the PSA] and restore the parties to the position they would have been in had the [PSA] not been entered into." The judge also said defendant was "clearly aware of [plaintiff's] pension" when he retired in 2019, but did not seek relief until 2021. The judge also determined that plaintiff had not committed any "fraud," nor had he materially misrepresented the value of his pension, and both parties understood the PSA's terms, agreed to them, and testified under oath that they were fair and reasonable.

The judge's order, filed on March 8, 2021, was accompanied by a written statement of reasons that echoed her earlier oral decision. Additionally, citing the Rule, the judge...

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