The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court recently issued an opinion in Toth v. Turi, Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division, Docket # A-3075-20, which affirmed a trial court’s order permitting the sale of a divorce defendant’s real property to satisfy a judgment against him.
According to the opinion, the Wife filed for divorce against her Husband, who is the defendant in this case. In 2019, the trial court entered a divorce judgment and ordered Husband to return specific pre-marital items to Wife, which were wrongfully in his possession.
When Husband failed to return the items, the court entered a judgment against Husband for $174,020. Husband denied receiving any income from his business, so Wife directed the local sheriff to seize Husband’s two vehicles. However, Wife could not sell the vehicles due to COVID-19 restrictions on execution sales, which allow plaintiffs to sell a defendant’s assets to collect on a judgment in their favor.
As a result, Wife filed a motion to allow her to satisfy the judgment through Husband’s real property, specifically his home. Husband filed a cross-motion arguing that the plaintiff failed to make a diligent effort to satisfy the judgment before resorting to his home. He also argued that the writ of execution, which allowed Wife to receive the $174,000 judgment through the sale of his real property, was defective.
The trial court granted Wife’s motion and denied Husband’s cross-motion, explaining that Wife had only collected $1,251.53 on her $174,000 judgment after two years of effort. Under N.J.S.A. 2A:17-1, Wife did not have to exhaust all possible efforts before resorting to Husband’s home. Because Wife made a “good faith attempt” to do so, she had exerted “reasonable efforts” to locate and sell Husband’s other assets. Therefore, the trial court entered an order allowing the sale of Husband’s home so Wife could collect on her judgment.
On appeal, Husband argued that the court erred in permitting the sale of his property because Wife stopped attempting to sell his vehicles and failed to seek alternatives before resorting to his home. Husband further argued that the trial court erred in relying on Wife’s counsel’s statements about COVID-19 restrictions on execution sales, claiming they were hearsay. Finally, he argued that resorting to his real property was against the public interest and the court should vacate the writ of execution because the amount set forth was erroneous.
The appeals court rejected Husband’s arguments without significant discussion. Instead, the court affirmed the trial court’s order and adopted the trial judge’s reasoning. The court also quickly rejected Husband’s claims that the writ was inaccurate or that resorting to his home was against the public interest. Additionally, the court noted that Husband should have objected to the alleged hearsay during trial when the trial court could have addressed his concerns. In denying Husband’s claim that Wife could have relied on other income before resorting to his home, Husband contradicted his own statement that he had not received any income within the last twelve months. Under New Jersey Court Rules, when a liable defendant denies possessing any movable assets, such as income, the plaintiff can typically resort to collecting a judgement by selling the defendant’s real property. Therefore, the appeals court upheld the order permitting the sale of Husband’s home.
Are You Dealing with a Property Dispute in a New Jersey Divorce Proceeding?
Securing a favorable judgment in a divorce proceeding does not mean you can collect the judgment immediately. The opposing party may claim they lack sufficient assets to satisfy the judgment, or they could appeal the judgment in its entirety. If you are facing a dispute over your property in a divorce proceeding, contact the New Jersey firm of Scully Family Law for assistance. With over a decade of experience representing clients in divorce disputes, our firm will gather evidence and develop a full record of assets to use in court. Through our skilled and experienced representation, we have secured many favorable outcomes for our clients. Contact the attorneys at Scully Family Law by calling 743-462-1122 to schedule a free initial consultation.