May 30, 2008
STELLA MINGRONE BURGOS,*FN1 PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
JOSE BURGOS, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-1739-03.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 19, 2008
Before Judges S. L. Reisner and Gilroy.
Plaintiff Stella Mingrone Burgos appeals from that part of the June 22, 2007 order of the Family Part, which directed that, commencing the week of September 10, 2007, defendant Jose Burgos's parenting time could be "supervised by his mother and/or sister for three (3) hours per week on a day[s] convenient to the [p]laintiff, [d]efendant and child." Plaintiff also appeals from the September 7, 2007 order, which among other matters: 1) denied plaintiff's motion to compel defendant's parenting time to be conducted at a facility operated by the Preferred Children's Services Center; and 2) granted defendant's cross-motion for enforcement of the order of June 22, 2007. We affirm.
The parties were married on July 16, 2000, and one child, a boy, was born of the marriage on January 7, 2002. On February 9, 2005, the parties were divorced. Incorporated into the Judgment of Divorce was a Property Settlement Agreement, which designated plaintiff as the primary caretaker of their son and provided defendant "supervised" parenting time because he had been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and the possibility existed that he could faint while caring for their son.
On August 5, 2005, an order was entered directing that parenting time was to be supervised by the Ocean County Supervised Visitation Program, which in turn referred defendant to the Preferred Children's Services Center of Ocean County. On February 22, 2007, defendant filed a motion to have the supervision requirement terminated, or in the alternative, to have his mother and/or sister approved as supervisors of his parenting time. On June 22, 2007, Judge Iadanza entered an order denying defendant's application to terminate his supervised parenting time at the Ocean County child care facility, but provided that if no problems arose with defendant's supervised parenting time at the childcare facility between June 22, 2007, through August 31, 2007, then defendant's parenting time could be supervised by defendant's mother and/or sister.
On August 27, 2007, plaintiff filed an order to show cause for emergent relief, requesting the court to reconsider that part of the order of June 22, 2007, permitting defendant's mother and/or sister to act as supervisors of his parenting time commencing September 10, 2007. Plaintiff requested that the court continue defendant's supervised parenting time at the childcare facility of Preferred Children's Services, contending that defendant's mother and sister also had health problems, and defendant had missed his parenting time on August 22, 2007, without contacting her. Because the matter was deemed non-emergent, it was converted by the trial judge to a motion. Prior to the return date of the motion, defendant cross-moved to enforce the order of June 22, 2007.
On September 7, 2007, Judge Iadanza denied plaintiff's motion and granted defendant's cross-motion. The order provided that defendant's mother and/or sister could commence supervising defendant's parenting time with the parties' son on September 7, 2007. On appeal, plaintiff argues: "[Permitting] the defendant's mother and sister to act as supervisors is a violation of claimant[']s rights to rear our child as I see fit without the court interjecting itself into the family realm."
"The scope of appellate review of a trial court's fact-finding function is limited. The general rule is that findings by the trial court are binding on appeal when supported by adequate, substantial, credible evidence." Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 411-12 (1998). Furthermore, "[b]ecause of the family courts' special jurisdiction and expertise in family matters, appellate courts should accord deference to family court factfinding." Id. at 413. We grant substantial deference to a trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, which will only be disturbed if they are "'manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant and reasonably credible evidence.'" Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974) (quoting Fagliarone v. Twp. of N. Bergen, 78 N.J. Super. 154, 155 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 40 N.J. 221 (1963)). It is against these standards that we address plaintiff's argument.
We have carefully considered plaintiff's argument in light of the record and the applicable law. We are satisfied that the argument is without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We conclude that Judge Iadanza correctly exercised his discretion in directing defendant's mother and/or sister to act as supervisors of defendant's parenting time with the parties' son. We discern no reason to interfere with his decision. See DeVita v. DeVita, 145 N.J. Super. 120 (App. Div. 1976) (holding that on "an issue of custody [and parenting time,] the conclusions of a trial judge are entitled to great weight and will not be lightly disturbed on appeal").