On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FV-13-119-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 11, 2011
Before Judges Carchman and Waugh.
Defendant F.C. appeals the denial of his motion seeking modification of the final domestic violence restraining order (FRO) previously entered against him, as well as seeking to reopen the domestic violence trial. We affirm.
The parties were married on October 10, 2003. Their only child, a son, was born in June 2008. They separated on July 7, 2008, as the result of a temporary domestic violence restraining order (TRO) entered pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. The domestic violence complaint alleged that F.C. reacted violently when P.V. refused to agree to his proposed divorce agreement. An amended complaint and TRO were filed on July 10, 2008. The amended complaint alleged a prior history of domestic violence.
When the parties appeared for the return date of the TRO, the trial was adjourned to August 4, 2008. However, F.C. was allowed parenting time with his son, supervised by his father and the father's significant other. According to P.V., there were approximately nine such parenting sessions prior to August 14, 2008.
F.C. was arrested on August 20, 2008, and charged with a sexual offense involving P.V.'s teenage daughter from her first marriage. He remained incarcerated until a Monmouth County grand jury declined to return an indictment in October 2008, at which time he was released.
Another continuance order was entered in the domestic violence matter, again adjourning the final hearing and requiring that F.C.'s parenting time be overseen by Healing Hearts, a program offered by Ocean Township. On November 25, 2008, following several parenting sessions, the program's director informed the Family Part judge handling the domestic violence case that the agency would no longer "be able to work effectively" with F.C.
On December 1, 2008, following trial, the judge entered the FRO. F.C. did not appeal that order.
At approximately the same time as the entry of the FRO, P.V. filed a
complaint for divorce. That matter was assigned to a different Family
Part judge. Dr. Patricia Baszczuk, Ph.D., was appointed by the
matrimonial judge to facilitate bonding and reunification. Baszczuk
recommended that reunification be facilitated by having the parties'
son develop a relationship with his half-sister, F.C.'s daughter from
his first marriage, with the help of F.C.'s former wife.*fn1
She also recommended that "[c]onsideration might be given to
removing" the FRO to allow P.V. and F.C. to have contact during
therapy sessions involving their son, at which time they would be
supervised by the therapist.
P.V. was unwilling to agree to dismissal or modification of the FRO to permit contact during therapy sessions. Consequently, F.C. filed his motion for modification on November 30, 2009. He also sought to reopen the domestic violence case, alleging that he was denied due process because he did not learn of the existence of the amended complaint until his cross-examination during the trial. P.V. opposed the motion, and also filed a cross-motion asking that F.C. be required to participate in counseling.
The motion was heard on January 21, 2010, by the same judge who handled the domestic violence matter. She denied both motions. With respect to reopening the domestic violence case, she found that F.C.'s attorney had been aware of the amended complaint prior to the trial and that the court's records reflected that F.C. had been served with it. She ...