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Madden v. Madden

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


October 28, 2009

LELAND J. MADDEN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMIE MADDEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FM-15-1276-05S.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued: October 15, 2009

Before Judges Axelrad and Espinosa.

In this post-judgment matrimonial matter, defendant Jamie Madden appeals from the denial of her motion for reconsideration of a prior order which, in part, granted enforcement relief and effectuated the terms of prior orders. We affirm.

The parties were married in l996, did not have any children, and agreed to binding arbitration to resolve their economic issues. Their August 21, 2007 dual judgment of divorce incorporated the arbitrator's decision, which included having the marital home promptly listed for sale. Plaintiff proceeded on post-judgment enforcement motions in which Judge Hodgson found, in part, that defendant failed to cooperate with the sale of the marital home and directed compliance and sanctions, and further directed defendant to pay a portion of the home equity loan until the debt was satisfied. Defendant did not appeal the October 5, 2007 and December 7, 2007 orders.

On plaintiff's enforcement of litigant's rights motion and defendant's cross-motion, the court entered an order on March l4, 2008, which found defendant in violation of litigant's rights based on her non-compliance with the aforementioned orders and, among other items, required her to vacate the marital premises, appointed a Special Fiscal Agent to effectuate its sale, and provided plaintiff with a credit against his alimony to defendant representing her past due share of the home equity line.

Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of the March l4 order, additionally seeking reconsideration and invalidation of all post-judgment orders. Plaintiff filed a cross-motion for enforcement of litigant's rights based on defendant's failure to abide by the terms of the three post-judgment orders. By order of May 2, 2008, Judge Hodgson denied defendant's motion for reconsideration. The court found defendant's challenges to the prior orders were time-barred as well beyond the twenty day time period permitted by Rule 4:49-2, and without legal basis as she failed to identify any controlling decision or probative, competent evidence overlooked by the court. This appeal ensued.

On appeal, defendant renews her arguments as to the substantive issues. We note that defendant has had more than ample opportunity to advance her position before the Family Part and that her contentions have been addressed repeatedly by two of its judges. However, if she is dissatisfied with the rulings contained in the 2007 orders, she is time-barred from challenging them in this appeal. See R. 2:4-1(a) (appeals from final court orders shall be taken within forty-five days of their entry). We limit our review to the May 2, 2008 reconsideration order listed in defendant's Notice of Appeal and Civil Case Information Statement.

In Fusco v. Board of Education, City of Newark, 349 N.J. Super. 455, 462 (App. Div. 2002), we held that the power to reconsider an earlier order rests with the trial judge's discretion, which should be limited to only two "very narrow circumstances[.]" We defined those circumstances as follows:

Reconsideration should be used only for those cases which fall into that narrow corridor in which either (l) the [c]court has expressed its decision based upon a palpably incorrect or irrational basis, or (2) it is obvious that the [c]court either did not consider, or failed to appreciate the significance of probative, competent evidence. [Ibid. (citing D'Atria v. D'Atria, 242 N.J.

Super. 392, 401 (Ch. Div. l990)).]

We do not intervene when a trial judge refuses to reconsider an earlier order absent a demonstration of an abuse of discretion. After carefully reviewing the record on appeal, we discern no abuse of discretion by the trial court in denying reconsideration, and conclude that defendant's arguments are insufficient to warrant any discussion in addition to the detailed findings and decisions contained in Judge Hodgson's denying reconsideration order.

Affirmed.

20091028

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