Sbrogna v. Sbrogna: Multiple Complaints and the Length of the Marriage

As discussed on this blog previously, the Alimony Reform Act provides a formula for calculating general term alimony, which uses the length of marriage as a variable in the formula. The length of marriage is defined as the date of marriage to the date of service of a complaint. But how do you calculate the length of marriage in a matter where multiple complaints were filed? It is not uncommon in family cases to see multiple complaints. For example, there might be a complaint for divorce filed, then withdrawn, filed again several years later but never served, and then later a counterclaim for divorce is filed and served.

In the recent case of Sbrogna v. Sbrogna, the Appeals Court addressed a fact set where the 1B petition was filed and then went inactive. One year later, the parties filed a Motion to Amend with a 1A Petition, and the divorce proceeded under the 1A Petition. The Court held that, for purposes of defining the length of the marriage, the relevant pleading is the one that results in a valid judgment of divorce. The court reasons that otherwise alimony could be based on the first date of filing even if the parties reconciled for a period afterwards. This holding clarifies the calculation of length of marriage.