In Mani v. Mani  (183 NJ 70, 2005) Justice Virginia Long,  writing the majority opinion for the New Jersey Supreme Court, held that marital fault was not a relevant factor in determining alimony with the exception of  two narrow circumstances:
 
1. The fault affected the economic life of the parties, or
2."the fault so violated societal norms that (the payment of alimony) would confound notions of simple justice"
 
The second circumstance—conduct which violates societal norms and confounds notions of simple justice— was recently addressed by a panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division in Calbi v. Calbi. (released 11/21/2007).
 
In Calbi the wife, who was receiving alimony,  killed the parties 14 year son in what was described as "an alcoholic rage". The wife had kicked and beaten the son to extent that he subsequently bled to death, she had pleaded guilty to second degree aggravated assault  and was incarcerated.
 
The Appellate Court was asked to consider whether such conduct "violated societal norms" and "confounded the notions of simple justice" to the extent that it would bar her claim for alimony.
 
To this writer’s utter amazement, the Appellate Court held that, "although dreadful", the wife’s conduct was not so "egregious" as bar her claim for alimony. They concluded  that once she was released form prison she could renew her claims for alimony!
 
This holding begs the question: If killing one’s own child does not violate societal norms or confound notions of simple justice, what would?
 
While the Appellate Court seemingly turned its decision on a narrow reading of the alimony statute,  it is respectfully submitted that the "person in the street" would clearly find such conduct to be offensive to societal norms and would agree that it  "offend(s)  the notions of simple justice".
 
What average person (and, we should, I think, assume that "societal norms" are defined by the collective opinions of average persons), if told this story, would  conclude that this mother should continue to receive alimony from the father of the child she had killed?
 
Can the same "average person" honestly believe that "simple justice" requires that a father be obligated to continue to support a person who has killed his child?
 
While I have the utmost of respect for all of Judiciary, and even a higher level of respect for our Appellate Courts, I believe that this opinion simply misses the mark. It risks further erodes from our body of Divorce Law any reality based common sense or notions of fundamental fairness.
 
Allegations of fault are often very subjective, impossible to clearly define and counter productive in vast majority of cases. But, to proffer the opinion that killing one’s own child is not "egregious" conduct is off the " moral compass". If that is a valid observation, then Divorce Law,  which has as its fundamental premise the need to do equity, has, in my opinion,  taken  a serious step back.
Law which does not reflect fairness, common sense and "societal norms" is very often "bad" law. The Calbi decision is, in this one man’s opinion, "bad" law.