On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FV-02-0840-98.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and Messano.
Defendant J.K. appeals from the May 26, 2010 order of the Family Part denying his motion for reconsideration of the earlier denial of his motion to dissolve a final restraining order (FRO) entered pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 through -35 (the PDVA). Before proceeding to the particular facts of this case, we set forth the legal standards that guide our review.
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(d):
Upon good cause shown, any [FRO] may be dissolved or modified upon application to the Family Part . . ., but only if the judge who dissolves or modifies the order is the same judge who entered the order, or has available a complete record of the hearing or hearings on which the order was based.
In cases where the motion judge did not enter the final restraining order . . . the "complete record" requirement of the statute includes, at a minimum, all pleadings and orders, the court file, and a complete transcript of the final restraining order hearing. Without the ability to review the transcript, the motion judge is unable to properly evaluate the application for dismissal. [Kanaszka v. Kunen, 313 N.J. Super. 600, 606 (App. Div. 1998).]
"Only where the movant demonstrates substantial changes in the circumstances that existed at the time of the final hearing should the court entertain the application for dismissal." Id. at 608.
"[N]ot every motion for dissolution of a domestic violence restraining order requires a plenary hearing." Ibid.
[T]he moving party has the burden to make a prima facie showing good cause exists for dissolution of the restraining order prior to the judge fully considering the application for dismissal. If that burden is met, the court should then determine whether there are facts in dispute material to a resolution of the motion prior to ordering a plenary hearing. [Ibid. (citing M.V. v. J.R.G., 312 N.J. Super. 597, 599-600 (Ch. Div. 1997)).]
"The linchpin in any motion addressed to dismissal of a [FRO] should be whether there have been substantial changed circumstances since its entry that constitute good cause for consideration of dismissal." Id. at 609.
In this case, plaintiff obtained an FRO in 1997 before a judge who had since retired when defendant made his motion to vacate the restraining order in 2010. The transcripts of the proceedings leading to the temporary restraining order (TRO) and the FRO were apparently "purged" and ...