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Hedlund v. Hedlund


July 10, 2008


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FM-09-2352-05.

Per curiam.


Submitted June 4, 2008

Before Judges Lisa and Lihotz.

Defendant Ronald Hedlund appeals from the denial of his motion, filed pursuant to Rule 4:50-1, to vacate the Final Judgment of Divorce (FJOD) entered by the Family Part on March 21, 2006. We affirm.

The parties have three children, twins now age nineteen and the youngest child, now age fourteen. Prior to commencement of the final hearing, the court conducted an in camera interview of the children and related the results of the interview on the record in the presence of the parties and counsel. Thereafter, plaintiff presented her cause of action for divorce, and the parties each testified as to their understanding and voluntary acceptance of the terms of a written property settlement agreement, which resolved all collateral issues raised in the divorce action. The children were placed in the sole legal and physical custody of plaintiff Edita Aquino,*fn1 child support was set, alimony was waived, and all assets subject to equitable distribution were divided. Defendant's counsel represented that defendant would engage in counseling and later file a motion to schedule parenting time.

On April 7, 2006, defendant moved to set aside the FJOD pursuant to Rule 4:50-1.*fn2 Defendant's motion challenged the grounds for divorce, asserted he was surprised by the trial judge's statements following her interview with the children, and challenged the equitable distribution of anticipated workers' compensation awards due to plaintiff. Additionally, defendant maintained he recently learned plaintiff suffers from "clinical paranoia" as a result of a prior head injury, which he believed was sufficient newly discovered information to modify the custody provisions. The court denied the motion as unfounded and awarded plaintiff counsel fees.

In his notice of appeal, defendant lists several prejudgment and post-judgment orders, suggesting they are the subject of appeal but presents no argument in his brief to support that claim. Issues that are raised but unsupported with arguments are deemed waived. See Kerney v. Kerney, 81 N.J. Super. 278, 282 (App. Div. 1963) (appeal dismissed because appellants' brief contained no argument supporting the grounds raised in their notice of appeal). The argument remaining for our review is defendant's assertion that the court erred in denying his motion to vacate the FJOD as he presented sufficient evidence to set the judgment aside.

A motion under Rule 4:50-1 is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court, and determinations should be guided by equitable principles. Housing Auth. of Morristown v. Little, 135 N.J. 274, 283 (1994). Relief under the rule is granted sparingly. F.B. v. A.L.G., 176 N.J. 201, 207-08 (2003). "The decision granting or denying an application to open a judgment will be left undisturbed unless it represents a clear abuse of discretion." Little, supra, 135 N.J. at 283.

In her review of defendant's motion, Judge Mantineo stated:

First of all . . . our rules are very tight on these things. I put the divorce through, and I asked [a] series of questions. If you're suggesting that you were surprised, which is what your paperwork says, what you would need to do is get the transcript and make sure there wasn't . . . any questions like do you understand what's going on here today . . . .

Your diagnosis of yourself in shock while I can appreciate divorce is painful, shock is actually a medical term-of-art, . . . again, your paperwork on its face fails. There's no reason for me to set aside [the] judgment.

. . . [W]hen we did the divorce, the fact that you don't want a divorce I can appreciate, but that doesn't stop somebody else's right. You signed the judgment, you signed the . . . Property Settlement that talked about the residential custody.

. . . [T]he Court is satisfied under [Rule] 4.50-1[,] there are no grounds to set aside the . . . Judgment of Divorce, and it will stand.

After careful review of defendant's arguments, the record on appeal, and the applicable law, we conclude Judge Mantineo properly exercised her discretion, and we have no basis to set aside her order denying defendant's motion to vacate the FJOD.


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