On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hunterdon County, Docket No. FM-10-83-03. John J.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 18, 2009
Before Judges Sabatino and Lyons.
This is an appeal of a post-judgment order in a matrimonial case. Defendant, John J. Valentine ("the father"), seeks review of certain aspects of an order entered by the Family Part on November 17, 2008 regarding child support, parenting time conditions, counsel fees, and other miscellaneous issues.
We affirm the trial court's order, except insofar as it concerns the apparent dog allergies of the parties' seven-year-old son and the concomitant prohibition on the son having overnight stays with his father. We remand to the Family Part for further consideration of the nature and severity of the son's allergies, particularly in light of his treatment by his most recent allergy specialists.
The pertinent facts are comprehensively set forth in the motion judge's memorandum decision dated November 14, 2008, which we substantially incorporate by reference. By way of summary, the parties were married in 2001 and had one child together, a son born in 2002. Within a year after his birth, the parties separated and a divorce action was brought by plaintiff Karin Valentine ("the mother"). Both parties retained counsel in the divorce litigation. As the result of negotiations, the parties agreed to the terms of a Property Settlement Agreement ("PSA"), which was incorporated into a Final Judgment of Divorce entered by the Family Part on May 27, 2003. Among other things, the PSA provided that the parties would share joint legal custody of the son, that the mother would be the parent of primary residence, and that the father would pay child support and have substantial parenting time.
The father remarried in August 2007. He moved into the residence of his new wife and her three children from a previous marriage. Three dogs live at the residence, having become pets of the stepchildren prior to the father's relocation there.
The father was employed through 2007, when he became disabled from a motor vehicle accident. He now collects Social Security and State pension benefits. The mother is employed full time. Her own mother, the child's maternal grandmother, has provided child care for the son while the mother is at work.
Disputes arose between the parties over a variety of post-judgment issues. These disputes led to a series of motions and cross-motions successively filed in the Family Part in 2007 and 2008.
The most recent motions and cross-motions, which resulted in the order now on appeal, were orally argued on November 14, 2008. The court granted the mother's motions in part and denied them in part. Likewise, the court granted the father's cross-motions in part and denied them in part. The motion judge issued a seventeen-paragraph order, prepared by the court itself, reflecting these dispositions, as well as a twelve-page, single-spaced memorandum opinion explaining the reasons for each of the dispositions.
The father now appeals several aspects of the November 17, 2008 order. The mother has not filed a cross-appeal of any of the items on which she was unsuccessful.
Specifically, the father, who is now self-represented, argues that: (1) the court erred in ordering him to reimburse the mother for child care expenses claimed for the period from September 3, 2007 through April 25, 2008; (2) the mother failed to supply adequate proof of payment of the child care expenses; (3) the court erred in ordering the husband to cease making unilateral adjustments to the child care payments; (4) the mother has been in violation of his litigant's rights; (5) he is entitled to a credit for child care allegedly overpaid for past holidays and vacation time; (6) the court wrongfully denied his request to prohibit the maternal grandmother from attending the son's medical visits; (7) the court erred in declining his request to have the child examined by an allergist, Dr. Fox; (8) the court erred in denying his request for an order enjoining the mother from using inflammatory language in the son's presence; and (9) the court improperly awarded counsel fees to the mother and reciprocally erred in denying the father counsel fees.
In assessing these post-judgment matrimonial issues, we bear in mind that our scope of review is limited. Given the Family Part's special expertise, appellate courts must accord particular deference to the trial court's findings in family cases, and to the conclusions that logically flow from those findings. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 411-12 (1998). See also Pascale v. Pascale, 113 N.J. 20, 33 (1988). We will not disturb the trial court's findings unless they are demonstrated to lack support in the record with substantial, credible evidence. Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 483-84 (1974). We also must be deferential on matters of equity and discretion applied ...