On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Warren County, Docket No. FM-21-286-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 11, 2011
Before Judges Graves and Waugh.
On July 28, 2007, plaintiff Sharon Marchese and defendant Debra Marchese entered in to a civil union that was subsequently dissolved. Defendant appeals from an order entered on January 22, 2010, denying her request to set aside the parties' property settlement agreement (PSA), which was incorporated into their final judgment of dissolution. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
On November 26, 2008, plaintiff's attorney sent defendant a proposed PSA. In the cover letter, counsel indicated that the agreement was consistent with the parties' discussions. In addition, the letter stated:
I recommend that you review this agreement with a matrimonial attorney of your choice, as your rights are affected by the provisions therein. Please have your attorney contact us as soon as possible to discuss these matters further.
If, however, you choose not to be represented by counsel in this matter, kindly advise us of that in writing. Additionally, please carefully review the enclosed agreement. If same is acceptable to you, kindly sign it in the presence of a notary public. I look forward to hearing from you. Please be advised that if we do not hear from you within fourteen (14) days, we will proceed with filing a complaint with the court.
On December 12, 2008, defendant signed the PSA in the presence of a notary, and the agreement was signed by plaintiff on December 17, 2008. About a month later, on January 15, 2009, defendant acknowledged service of the complaint and signed a "waiver of time to answer and consent to entry of default." Defendant also confirmed that she had "entered into a Property Settlement Agreement, dated December 17, 2008, which resolves all of the issues."
In a subsequent letter dated February 3, 2009, defendant informed plaintiff's counsel that she received a letter from plaintiff indicating she no longer wanted "the remainder of her personal belongings." Defendant stated she was concerned that plaintiff was "allowing her continued anger . . . to adversely affect her judgment regarding [her] belongings." Defendant indicated "she was more than willing to work out a way" for plaintiff to recover her property. Defendant also stated:
Contrary to [plaintiff's] characterization of me being anguished and frustrated, I am neither and would like to have closure for both of us. I wish her nothing but happiness and peace which is why I am concerned about her decision and would not want her to have any regrets regarding these items which I know mean a lot to her, and someday [her son].
On March 20, 2009, the court entered a "Final Judgment of Dissolution of Civil Union," which incorporated the parties' PSA dated December 17, 2008. Pursuant to the PSA, defendant became the sole owner of the former civil union residence, which was jointly owned, and defendant agreed to refinance the mortgage. Paragraph VI.A of the PSA provided as follows:
REAL PROPERTY. The parties jointly own real property located at . . . Road, Columbia, New Jersey. There is little or no equity in the former marital home. [Defendant] shall solely retain the premises, free and clear of any claims from [plaintiff]. [Defendant] shall refinance the existing mortgage to remove [plaintiff's] name therefrom within six (6) months from the execution of this Agreement. [Defendant] shall have exclusive possession of the marital home and be solely responsible for paying all of the carrying costs, including but not limited to the mortgage, taxes, insurance and utility ...