This month, the Appellate Division approved for publication the case of Gormley v. Gormley, A-1428-18, (App.Div. 2019) which addressed the standard to apply in determining the income of a litigant who has been determined by the Social Security Administration to be disabled and whether the Court should impute income for someone who has been adjudicated disabled and does not work.
In this case, the parties married in 2000, had one child, and the plaintiff filed a Complaint for Divorce in 2015. The Defendant had already been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the time of the marriage. In 2002, also during the marriage, the Social Security Administration determined that the Defendant was disabled by multiple sclerosis. As such, she did not work and was receiving $2,023 per month in social security disability benefits. The Plaintiff was employed full-time and earned a commission based income. In the two years before the trial, he had been earning approximately $150,000 per year. However, in the year of the trial, he was working fewer hours in order to represent himself at trial, and to study psychology and parental alienation. As such, he was earning approximately $112,000 per year.
The family court judge imputed $240 per week of earned income to the Defendant even though the Social Security Administration had determined that she was disabled and had been paying monthly social security disability benefits since 2002. The judge reasoned that she did not visibly observe Defendant exhibit in court disabling symptoms from multiple sclerosis such as fatigue, bladder issues, tremors , difficulty in concentration or any other difficulties that the judge felt would prevent her from working. No income was imputed to the plaintiff.