In the recent unpublished decision, Ganjoin v. Hall, the Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s determination that the parties should split the cost of a forensic accountant 50/50. This post-judgment case arose out of a motion by the plaintiff mother to compel the defendant father to contribute to their child’s college education costs. The parties agreed in their MSA of ten years prior to share the cost of college in accordance with “their respective financial abilities” at the time the child reached college-age. The father cross-moved to reduce his child support, alleging that the mother’s net worth was much higher than she claimed. Both claimed to earn five figure salaries but the mother’s net worth was over seven times that of the father, due primarily to her real estate holdings. The father argued that her net worth was even higher than she claimed in her filings to the court based on both her monthly budget (which far exceeded her purported income) on her CIS and the absence of several properties from her CIS that she had previously claimed to have owned.
The court ordered a forensic accountant to investigate and that the parties should share the cost of the accountant 50/50 but “subject to readjustment by the Court upon completion of “ the accountant’s services. The mother did not cooperate with the accountant and the case lingered for over a year, at which time the Court directed the accountant to produce a report based on the knowledge he had acquired. The accountant had informed the court about the mother’s tactics and how it had prolonged the process. Although the parties eventually settled on the eve of trial, they disagreed as to paying the remainder of the accountant’s fee. The court invited written submissions and without hearing argument, ordered that the parties pay virtually identical amounts. The father appealed.
The Appellate Division reversed finding no support in the record for the trial court’s holding. The record demonstrated the mother’s refusal to surrender certain requested documents prolonged the process and inflated the accountant’s fees. Furthermore, the expert had been appointed to review the plaintiff’s income only as hers was the only one under question. The father successfully argued that he should not have to pay the same amount when he reported his income correctly from the onset and had nothing to do with the delays and mounting costs. The accountant’s report indicated that the mother had not presented a full and accurate picture of her finances, thus making the father’s position reasonable. The Court found both the mother’s bad faith and her disproportionally higher income both relevant in ordering her to pay a higher proportion of the fees and remanded to the lower court to determine the exact amount.