On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FV-13-000781-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 2, 2009
Before Judges Payne and Waugh.
Defendant Vicki Hartman appeals from a final domestic violence restraining order (FRO) entered against her pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to - 35. Because the trial judge relied upon recordings of telephone conversations that were not made part of the record, we remand to the Family Part for a new trial.
We discern the following facts from the record.
N.V. and Hartman had known each other for approximately five years when the events that gave rise to this appeal occurred. According to N.V., the relationship was intimate for only the first two years. N.V. testified she tried to remain friends with Hartman following the termination of their intimacy, in part because she had loaned $3,850 to Hartman in August of 2007 and it had not been repaid. N.V. obtained a temporary restraining order in 2005, apparently based on harassing telephone calls, but the matter was dismissed following trial.
N.V. testified that Hartman repeatedly called her work, home, and cell phone to the point where her voicemail inboxes would fill up with messages. She moved at the end of July 2008 and did not give Hartman her new address. Nevertheless, Hartman obtained her address within a week. She further alleged that Hartman called her and her boyfriend using private numbers and different names.
The specific events that gave rise to the application for a restraining order occurred on October 24, 2008, at N.V.'s townhouse, which is approximately an hour and one half from Hartman's residence. N.V. testified that, as she drove to her mailbox, she saw Hartman's vehicle at the end of her street. According to N.V., Hartman put her vehicle in reverse and backed up so that the two vehicles were next to each other. N.V. then went to the end of the street and drove away. Hartman followed her. N.V. testified that Hartman "chased" her through Long Branch until she flagged down a police officer, who directed her to the police station where she filed her complaint and application for a temporary restraining order.
Hartman maintained that she and N.V. had been intimate throughout the five-year period, but that N.V. occasionally had "affairs" with others. She denied that she ever went to N.V.'s home or workplace uninvited, or called N.V. as frequently as N.V. alleged. Hartman also denied having access to any of N.V.'s personal information.
Hartman testified that she went to N.V.'s townhouse on October 24, 2008, for a pre-arranged meeting. She claimed that the two had agreed via e-mail that Hartman would meet N.V. at her townhouse in order to give her a check to repay the debt. Hartman maintained that the meeting was necessary because N.V. claimed she never received her checks through the mail. According to Hartman, she tried to communicate with N.V. near the mailbox, but N.V. just drove away. Hartman maintained that she followed N.V. because N.V. was supposed to show her back roads for her to drive to her home. As soon as she noticed they were headed in a different direction, Hartman tried to call N.V. but received no answer.
After hearing testimony on October 28, 2008, the trial judge made the following findings of ...