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Driscoll v. Puchol

January 11, 2008


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FV-13-1426-07.

Per curiam.



Submitted December 11, 2007

Before Judges Skillman and Yannotti.

Defendant Denise Puchol appeals from a final restraining order entered in favor of plaintiff Laura Driscoll on March 20, 2007, pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

On March 1, 2007, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Family Part in which she alleged that on that date, defendant had committed an act of domestic violence. Plaintiff alleged that the house alarm "went off" and the police found defendant laying down, hiding from view, in a car parked nearby. Plaintiff further alleged that defendant had subjected her to other acts of domestic violence, including harassment, threats, a prior break-in at plaintiff's residence, and the taking of property from plaintiff's home.

The judge entered a temporary restraining order on March 1, 2007, which barred defendant from returning to plaintiff's home and also enjoined her from visiting plaintiff's minor children, L.D. and J.D. On March 20 and 23, 2007, Judge Honora O'Brien Kilgallen conducted a hearing on plaintiff's application for a final restraining order.

Plaintiff and defendant began what defendant describes as an "intimate relationship" sometime in March 1996. On May 25, 2001, plaintiff gave birth to L.D. and in May 2003, defendant moved into plaintiff's home. Plaintiff gave birth to J.D. on June 14, 2005. It appears that beginning sometime in 2005, the parties' relationship soured.

According to plaintiff, on Christmas Eve, defendant drank too much at a dinner at a friend's home and passed out on a couch. The following day, plaintiff told defendant that she would like her to leave the house. However, defendant continued to live in plaintiff's home. On May 10, 2006, the parties had an argument and plaintiff told defendant to leave. The police were called and they moved defendant out of the house that evening.

Plaintiff testified that in June 2006, her home was burglarized. She said that she was at work and received a call on her cell phone from a person who is a mutual friend of the parties. The individual told plaintiff that she had just received a call from plaintiff's home phone but the caller had hung up. Plaintiff's friend said that she called plaintiff's home phone number but there was no answer. Plaintiff told her friend that she did not know what she was talking about. When plaintiff returned home, she found that certain legal papers relating to a lawsuit involving defendant had been taken, along with about $500 in cash that she kept in a drawer.

On July 20, 2006, defendant filed an action in the Family Part in which she alleged that she was the psychological parent of plaintiff's two children and was entitled to joint legal custody and visitation. The parties subsequently agreed to the terms of a consent order that was entered by the Family Part on September 14, 2006, which granted defendant limited visitation with the children and included certain restraints. The parties thereafter agreed to the terms of a final consent order, which was entered by the court on December 19, 2006.

The December 19, 2006 order stated that defendant would have visitation with the children in accordance with a specified schedule; however, visitation was subject to certain conditions, including the requirement that "neither party shall stalk or harass the other." In addition, the order provided, among other things, that neither party may: attempt to contact or speak to the other, except to discuss the visitation schedule, the children and the children's welfare; or drive past the other party's residence unless defendant is picking up or discharging the children on visitation dates and such pick-ups must be made "at the bottom of [plaintiff's] driveway." The consent order further stated that neither party may trespass upon the property of the other party, "including but not limited to coming to [plaintiff's] front door or around to the back of [plaintiff's] property." The parties also agreed to waive their respective claims, including defendant's claim for psychological parentage.

Plaintiff testified that after the consent order was entered by the court, things "seemed to settle down" although occasionally, defendant would drive by plaintiff's home. Plaintiff said that on February 17, 2007, someone entered her automobile and stole her computer. Plaintiff stated that the car had been locked and parked in her driveway. The lock was not broken and the car had not been damaged. Plaintiff said that previously, defendant had use of that car. Plaintiff ...

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