August 27, 2007
JOSETTE VALENTINO, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
MICHAEL WALDRON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, General Equity Part, Atlantic County, C-148-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: May 30, 2007
Before Judges Kestin and Weissbard.
Following two-days of testimony and argument in a bench trial, Judge William C. Todd, III, based on findings made and conclusions stated on the record on the third day, June 8, 2006, entered judgment awarding plaintiff $45,891, among other terms. Defendant appeals.
The dispute is over the rights of the parties to the proceeds from the sale of a parcel of residential real estate. Plaintiff and defendant had been engaged, but never married. During their engagement, they became owners of the real estate, title having been taken in their joint names on June 30, 1998. The evidence disclosed that the source of the funds for the down payment were proceeds from the settlement of a personal injury claim that defendant had received antedating his relationship with plaintiff. More than three months before the parties' took title to the real property, defendant had transferred those proceeds to a joint bank account in the name of both parties.
There was evidence that the parties lived together in the property from time to time; at other times, including a year or more before the property was sold, defendant lived there alone. Evidence was presented by both sides regarding the parties' respective contributions for upkeep of the home. The parties' sold the property on July 22, 2004.
In his comprehensive oral disposition, Judge Todd made findings based on the evidence from which he concluded that the most logical view of the matter was that defendant had made an unconditional gift to plaintiff of the proceeds used to purchase the home and of a shared title interest in the real property; that, therefore, the property titled to both parties was jointly owned; and that they were to share equally in the proceeds from the resale of the property.
On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court's findings leading to the conclusion that an unconditional gift had been made are "unsupported by any evidence," and have "no factual basis." Defendant also argues that the court "misapplied the law of partition and title and the rights of co-tenants," and "erred in failing to apply the equitable principles applicable in partition cases." All of defendant's arguments on appeal focus on the portion of the judgment that bears upon the division of the proceeds from the sale. Accordingly, defendant is deemed to have waived an appeal from any other provisions of the judgment. See Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, comment 4 on R. 2:6-2 (2007).
The findings of a trial court and the conclusions that flow logically therefrom are binding on appeal as long as they are based on substantial credible evidence in the record. Pascale v. Pascale, 113 N.J. 20, 33 (1988); Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974). We discern nothing in this record that would justify a departure from that principle; or that would support a conclusion that the trial court's resolution of the issues was anything but an appropriate exercise of equitable discretion in resolving the claims of the parties, calling for our deference. See, e.g., Walles v. Walles, 295 N.J. Super. 498, 513-14 (App. Div. 1996). We reject defendant's argument that the court erred in the application of pertinent legal standards. The findings made and the result mandated were well supported by the proofs that were presented.
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