Appellate Division Docket No.: A-001624

Suzanne Cardali, the party bringing the legal action, and Michael Cardali, the party against whom the action is brought, entered into a legal agreement regarding the division of their property, commonly referred to as a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). This agreement became part of their official divorce judgment in December 2006. According to the PSA, Michael Cardali’s responsibility to provide financial support to Suzanne Cardali in the form of alimony would cease in the event of her “cohabitation,” as defined by the laws of New Jersey.

In December 2020, Michael Cardali made a formal request to terminate the alimony payments, stating his belief that Suzanne Cardali had been in a relationship resembling a marriage with an individual named Bruce McDermott for more than eight years. During this period, they participated in family gatherings and other social activities as a couple, publicly documented their relationship on social media, and went on vacations together. Michael Cardali presented a report from a private investigator who had conducted surveillance on Suzanne Cardali and Bruce McDermott. The investigator’s findings indicated that they were together on all of the 44 days they were under surveillance, with more than half of those days involving overnight stays. The investigator’s report included photographs showing Suzanne Cardali and Bruce McDermott carrying groceries, personal belongings, and doing laundry at each other’s residences. The investigator also reported that Suzanne Cardali had access to Bruce McDermott’s home even when he was not present.

However, the trial court rejected Michael Cardali’s request, and this decision was upheld by the Appellate Division. The New Jersey Supreme Court clarified that the party making such a request does not necessarily need to provide evidence on every factor related to cohabitation, as outlined in the “Konzelman” standard, to establish a prima facie case. Instead, if the moving party’s statement addresses some relevant factors and is supported by credible evidence, and this evidence would support a finding of cohabitation if uncontested, the trial court should recognize it as prima facie evidence of cohabitation.

Click here to read the brief written by Jeralyn L. Lawrence,  Esq., Derek M. Freed, Esq., Timothy F. McGoughran, Esq., Catherine Murphy, Esq. and Brian G. Paul, Esq.