In a recent case that the lawyers at our law firm evaluated, a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey decided that the victim, who had been assaulted two times in less than a month by her abuser, must receive a Final Restraining Order. In light of the fundamentally vicious actions by the abuser towards the victim, it was clear that this history of domestic violence demonstrated that she needed a Final Restraining Order. Below, please find this attorney’s take on this recent New Jersey case.
In D.G. v. G.M., wife G.M., appealed from an order of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part of Somerset County that denied her motion for reconsideration and awarded counsel fees to her ex-husband, D.G. Her motion for reconsideration was in relation to certain provisions of an order dated October 1, 2014 that stated that the supervised visits of her and D.G.’s child would take place in Bergen County, advised reunification therapy between the child and David, found G.M. in violation of four sections of order dated March 17, 2014, imposed a sanction of ten-hours of community against G.M., and obligated G.M. to pay D.G.’s counsel fees.
G.M. and D.G. got married in 2003 and had one child together. They separated shortly after in 2004. D.G. filed a complaint for divorce on July 23, 2008 and the two parents entered into a consent order that resolved matters of decision making for their daughter, custody, and parenting time. The divorced was finalized on January 12, 2009, when a Family Part judge entered a final judgment of divorce. The divorced parents agreed to a amend the final judgment of divorce on February 13, 2009. This amended judgment of divorce modified the parenting time and custody arrangement enumerated in the consent order dated July 23, 2008, and set forth a child support obligation for D.G. that was consistent with what he was directed to pay by the non-dissolution matter in Somerset County.
D.G. filed a motion to modify his child support obligation in April 2013. He further sought to enforce the parenting time provisions enumerated in the amended judgment of divorce. He claimed that G.M. had denied him to see his daughter for the parenting time for the parenting time allowed for and required by the amended judgment of divorce. The Family Part denied D.G.’s request to modify his child support obligation and enforcement of the parenting time order. Instead, the Family Part of Somerset County granted his request to recalculate the child support obligation based on an “other dependent deduction,” and ordered that he should have supervised visitation time with his child via the Bergen County Supervised Visitation Program. On May 3, 2013, the Family Part issued a separate order that directed the parents to take part in the Bergen County Supervised Visitation Program, and call the program immediately and schedule intake appointments.
G.M. then filed a motion to increase child support, for sole custody of their child, and to terminate D.G.’s parenting time with the daughter. In response, D.G. filed a cross motion and sought an order that found G.M. to be in violation of the order dated May, 3, 2013, that granted him supervised visitation time, and directed G.M. to schedule the intake appointment with the Bergen County Supervised Visitation Program, as previously ordered by the court. D.G. further requested the court to implement sanctions against G.M. for failing to abide by the order dated May 3, 2013, enter a warrant for her arrest, and order her to perform community service, as per Rule 5:3-7(a) if she should fail to schedule her intake appointment within a fifteen day time period, and award him with attorney’s fees.
On March 17, the Family Part of Somerset County entered an order that denied D.G.’s requests for unsupervised parenting time, sanctions for Gaby because she violated the order dated August 21, 2013. The first paragraph of the order required the parents to start complying with D.G.s supervised family time. The third paragraph of the same order required David to take part in reunification therapy with his daughter at least twice every month.
David then filed a certification of noncompliance in which he detailed alleged violations of the March 17, 2014 made by G.M., requested sanctions be imposed upon her, and attorney’s fees. The Family Part entered an order on June 18, 2014 that found G.M. was in violation of the first paragraph of the order dated March 17, 2014 because she failed to cooperate in scheduling supervised parenting time for D.G. The same order also directed D.G.’s lawyer to submit a warrant for G.M.’s arrest. Due to a conference between the court and each party’s attorney that took place after the June 18, 2014 order an arrest warrant was never entered. This is because G.M.’s attorney had said that she had agreed to cooperate in scheduling supervised parenting time for D.G. and his daughter.
G.M. filed a motion to transfer the location of the supervised visitation to Somerset County, recalculate D.G.s’ child support deny any request for unsupervised parenting time from D.G., and to grant her full custody of their daughter if D.G. lost contact with her without good cause. In response, D.G. filed a cross motion and wanted the Family Part to find G.M. in violation of the March 17, 2014 order. He also requested the court to impose sanctions against her and award him attorney’s fees. The judge denied her motion to modify child support and request to restrict unsupervised parenting time in the future. He also denied her request for sole custody, but did grant her request to change the location of the supervised parenting time from Bergen County to Somerset County. The judge also granted D.G.’s brief which requested sanctions for G.M.’s repeated violations of numerous sections of the amended complaint and consent order. The Family Part ordered G.M. to work ten hours of community service and pay D.G. $ 3,537 in attorney’s fees. As a result, G.M. filed a motion for reconsideration of that order. D.B. in turn filed a cross motion request the court to impose additional sanctions and another award of counsel fees. In a comprehensive forty two page statement of reasons the judge denied G.M.’s motion and ordered her to pay D.G. an additional payment of counsel fees in the amount of $ 3,862.97. G.M. appealed the decision.
On appeal, G.M. argued that: the Family Part abused its discretion by: refusing to grant her motion for reconsideration, failure to modify the child support obligation, and the imposition of a sanction of community service was erroneous.
The New Jersey Appellate Division explained that reconsideration is with the discretion of the Family Part, and is only exercised in the interest of justice. It is appropriate if the court made its decision based on irrational or incorrect information, or it is clear that the court did not consider relevant information. It is not appropriate as a way to bring evidence to the attention of the court that was available but not presented during trial. When a decision is made without a rational explanation, a departure from established policies, or if it rests on an impermissible basis, an abuse of discretion has occurred.
The New Jersey Appellate Division reviewed the record and found that none of the above-mentioned triggers had occurred and that G.M.’s arguments lacked sufficient merit to warrant additional discussion in a written opinion. The appellate panel affirmed the Family Part judge’s decision for the reasons stated in the trial opinion.
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