On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, Docket No. FV-16-000066-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Baxter and Koblitz.
Defendant J.N.W. appeals the entry of a final restraining order (FRO) entered against him on behalf of plaintiff A.D. on July 8, 2010, pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
At the time of the incident giving rise to the FRO, the parties had been married for almost four years, although they were living separately. Plaintiff lived in Cape May County and defendant in Passaic County. Both parties were twenty-seven years old, and plaintiff was pregnant with another man's child. The parties have no children together. On June 30, 2010, defendant obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) against his wife, alleging that at 5:30 p.m. the previous day, she had called him "at home and work threatening to kill him because she was served divorce papers." He alleged that this behavior constituted terroristic threats, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3, and harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4a. He indicated that there was no prior history of domestic violence between the parties.
On July 2, 2010, A.D. obtained a TRO against her husband, J.N.W., alleging harassment by the following behavior. He called her "and stated he was going to ruin her life." He was "yelling at [her] and calling her names." She alleged that he then served divorce papers on her at her work, although she asked him to serve the papers elsewhere. He wanted to see her, and she told him that "she ha[d] no reason to talk to him anymore." She alleged in her complaint that on April 13, 2010, her husband threatened to kill plaintiff and her mother. She also alleged that he had "strangled" her in the past, and that in December 2009, he had punched her in the face and knocked her unconscious.
After a trial at which only the parties testified, the trial court found that defendant was not credible when he testified in court that, when plaintiff called him on June 29, 2010, the day she was served with the divorce complaint at work, she threatened "her boyfriend would find [him] and kill [him]." The trial court found this testimony to be inconsistent with both the allegation in the complaint, which did not mention a boyfriend, and plaintiff's more credible testimony. The court's dismissal of defendant's TRO is not before us on appeal.
The court found plaintiff's testimony credible. She testified to the following facts. In April 2009, the parties had reconciled after a separation. Defendant was drinking, and she went to bed. She stated:
[At] 2 a.m. [defendant] was looking for his keys. He ripped me out of bed asking me where his keys were. I told him he was not getting his keys, he was drunk. . . . He started breaking stuff in the room, punched a hole in the door. . . . I took his keys and I threw them. I said here's your keys, get out, I'm done. When I threw them they hit him in his chest. That sent him into a rage, and he punched me. He had slapped me. He kind of gripped me up when I did that. I broke free, I ripped his shirt breaking free, and he slapped me on one side of my face. I pushed back to get out of the room. When I pushed back to get out of the room he hit me [with a] knock-out punch.
The "knock-out punch" to her face rendered plaintiff unconscious. She presented in support of this allegation contemporaneous photographs of her depicting her swollen and bruised face with injuries to both eyes.
On April 12, 2010, after they separated again and she decided to move to Cape May from Passaic County, defendant came over to plaintiff's apartment and asked her "if there was someone else." She told him it did not matter because they were separated and getting a divorce. Defendant "was having a fit in the parking lot. . . telling me I know that there's someone else, just tell me that there's someone else." He ripped off his shirt in his frenzy. The following day, he sent her a text message stating, "you're dead, too, b[**]ch." Plaintiff produced a photograph of that text message.
Plaintiff admitted that she called defendant the day she was served with the divorce complaint at work, and left a message on his phone. An hour later, defendant called back and "began yelling obscenities" at her. He said, "I told you I was going to ruin your life." ...