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Chan v. Huie

September 19, 2007

SUSAN CHAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GORDON HUIE, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-2364-03.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 4, 2007

Before Judges Payne and Messano.

Plaintiff Susan Chan and defendant Gordon Huie were married in 1990 and are the parents of two daughters. Plaintiff filed for divorce and the proceedings ultimately culminated in a June 29, 2004, dual final judgment of divorce (JOD). As reflected in the JOD, the parties had settled virtually all contested issues regarding equitable distribution, alimony, child support and custody, and the terms of their agreement were incorporated in the judgment. As to the health care and education of the children, however, the parties could not settle their differences and a two-day bench trial ensued. The trial judge incorporated his findings and conclusions on these issues in the JOD.

This appeal implicates two specific provisions of the JOD. The first, apparently consented to by both parties, provided

[D]efendant will purchase plaintiff's interest in the marital home as promptly as possible. Plaintiff will convey a Deed to defendant upon the tender of the money to her. Plaintiff must vacate the marital premises within thirty . . . days after receipt of the monies but not before June 30, 2004.

The second, based upon the judge's findings and conclusions after trial, provided

[D]efendant . . . shall be designated as the parent of primary decision making on the health care issues and education issues. The defendant is directed to consult with the plaintiff in the decision making process. The Court further appoints Cynthia Johnson, M.S.W., as parenting coordinator . . . to work with the parties, the goal being for them to ultimately share primary decision making. The Court further orders that at the end of one year, upon application by either party, the Court shall review this decision and the Court shall receive an interim report from the parenting coordinator containing her suggestions and recommendations.

[Emphasis supplied.]

Within weeks, defendant filed the first post-judgment application, signaling a continuation of the already acrimonious litigation. In support of his request for an order to show cause filed on and made returnable on July 20, 2004, defendant certified that he paid the monies required under the JOD for the purchase of the marital home to plaintiff on July 13, 2004. He claimed that plaintiff refused to vacate the home leaving both parties still in the residence, that plaintiff interfered with his relationship with his children, and that she had caused physical damage to the premises.

Plaintiff appeared pro se at the hearing. The judge noted that the JOD provided plaintiff with "30 days from the date she receive[d] the money to move out," and that the time simply had not expired. When defense counsel pressed the claim that plaintiff was vandalizing the premises, and should be required to vacate sooner, the following exchange took place between the judge and defense counsel:

[Judge.] He can bring the police to the house. He can get the locks changed. [Defense counsel.] Well, if he gets the locks changed . . . then we're out of this order. Thank you . . . . [I]f he changes the locks . . . then ...


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