On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FM-20-508-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 14, 2009
Before Judges Fall and Alvarez.
Plaintiff Carlos Remolina and defendant Parvin Remolina, both pro se on this appeal, were divorced on March 20, 2008. Defendant appeals that portion of the divorce judgment awarding her rental income owed by plaintiff's medical practice. She also appeals the court's denial of her request for counsel fees. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BECAUSE IT RELIED ON AN INACCURATE CALCULATION OF RENTAL FEE[S] OWED TO DEFENDANT/APPELLANT ON THE 911 WOOD AVENUE PROPERTY AND THE CORRECT AMOUNT WAS NEVER PROVIDED TO IT.
II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ITS DECISION TO REDUCE THE RENT OWED TO DEFENDANT/ APPELLANT FOR THE 911 WOOD PROPERTY BECAUSE ITS FINDINGS WERE NOT BASED ON CREDIBLE EVIDENCE.
III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ITS FINAL JUDGMENT BECAUSE ITS BASES FOR DENYING DEFENDANT/APPELLANT'S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY FEES TO BE PAID BY PLAINTIFF/RESPONDENT LACKS FACTUAL UNDERPINNING AND LEGAL BASIS.
The parties married on September 5, 1999, and separated approximately four years later. The divorce complaint was filed on September 30, 2003. During the acrimonious divorce proceedings, plaintiff filed for bankruptcy. After payment of $200,000 to the bankruptcy trustee, defendant acquired plaintiff's interest in 911 Wood Avenue (911) and two other pieces of real estate. 911 is an office building previously used by plaintiff for his medical practice that was held by an entity, created by both parties, but titled solely in defendant's name. That entity entered into a ten-year lease with plaintiff from March 1, 2002 through February 29, 2012. Real estate taxes for 911 totaled approximately $26,000 per year, and the monthly rent was $6,500.
While the divorce was pending, defendant brought a landlord-tenant action to compel plaintiff's removal from the premises for nonpayment of rent. The action was consolidated with the matrimonial matter on November 14, 2003. Despite the matrimonial court's order that plaintiff pay rent, he failed to do so. He occupied 911 until March 2006.
The February 23, 2007 equitable distribution consent decree entered into between defendant and the bankruptcy trustee states:
12. Notwithstanding anything contained herein to the contrary, the defendant shall have . . . the right to seek by way of legal action from the plaintiff and/or his medical practice known as Carlos Remolina, M.D., P.A., post-bankruptcy petition arrears in rent with respect to the premises known as 911 Wood Avenue . . . due and owing from January 2006 forward, and also including but not limited to arrears in rent which have been contained in certain Orders of the Court and pendente lite Orders with respect to plaintiff's obligation to pay said rent and with respect to the obligation of the plaintiff and his medical practice to pay real estate tax arrears pertaining to 911 . . . .
13. Notwithstanding anything contained in this agreement to the contrary, the defendant shall have reserved to her . . . the right to seek from the said Carlos Remolina and/or his medical practice, Carlos Remolina, M.D., P.A., all real estate taxes due and owing on 911 . . . which accrued on and after the date of the filing of the ...