On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FV-14-001343-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges A.A. Rodriguez and LeWinn.
Defendant appeals from the July 30, 2010 domestic violence final restraining order (FRO) issued against him in favor of plaintiff. Plaintiff cross-appeals from the judge's denial of her request for counsel fees and costs. We reverse the FRO, thereby rendering the cross-appeal moot.
At the time of the FRO hearing, plaintiff was sixteen and defendant was eighteen-and-a-half years old. They had been in a "boyfriend/girlfriend relationship" for "about a year." Plaintiff testified that she would frequently accompany defendant when he pawned jewelry that he told her he had stolen from his grandmother. She was aware that defendant "had a drug problem" and knew that he spent the money on Oxycontin, as she had seen him "high" on that drug "many times." At some point, plaintiff became aware that defendant was stealing jewelry from her home and pawning it.
On June 5, 2010, defendant was at plaintiff's home "just hanging out." When defendant attempted to pull plaintiff's dog out from under a desk, the dog bit him twice. Plaintiff "immediately grabbed [her] dog . . . and got him away from everything because [she] didn't know what was going on." Defendant was upset and told plaintiff and her mother that he "want[ed] to kill [the] f-ing dog."
Plaintiff spent that night at defendant's house; she came home briefly the following morning and saw her dog, who seemed "fine again running around the house." Plaintiff then left with her mother to spend the day at her grandmother's home. Her mother dropped plaintiff at defendant's house around 8:30 p.m.; her mother went home and then called plaintiff "hysterically screaming and crying that the dog [wa]s dead." Defendant then drove plaintiff home. About two weeks later, defendant admitted that he "beat" plaintiff's dog to death.
Plaintiff did not tell anyone about defendant killing her dog at that time because she "believed that these were just issues [defendant] had . . . that he needed to deal with and he needed help with them. And . . . [she] cared so much about him at the time."
On or about June 18, 2010, the parties were in an attic at defendant's house smoking a cigarette. Plaintiff "believe[d] [defendant] was high at the time." Defendant lit the lighter and he held it lit and he said ["]you're going to remember me forever.["] [Plaintiff] had no idea that he was going to do that. [She] thought he was just saying that as in general boyfriend/girlfriend conversation.
He [held] the lighter lit for maybe a minute and . . . the metal [got] really hot. He let go of it and he jabbed it into [her] leg and [she] still ha[s] a scar two months later. [She] was really shocked at first. And [she] kind of . . . playfully . . . slapped him. But . . . after [she] showed [her] Mom and after . . . reporting everything to the
[p]olice [she] realized that [it] is really dangerous to mess around with this kind of thing . . . .
On or about June 25, 2010, plaintiff was called into police headquarters to identify certain jewelry that defendant had been charged with stealing. At some point, plaintiff learned that defendant had stolen other property belonging to her parents, and she decided that she "couldn't take it anymore [sic]." On June ...