On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FV-15-1618-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 18, 2012
Before Judges Carchman, Baxter and Nugent.
Defendant T.R. appeals from the final restraining order (FRO) entered against him on February 24, 2011, pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. The order barred him from having any contact with his estranged wife, plaintiff C.C., and directed him to stay away from her home and her place of employment. We reject defendant's contentions that: 1) the issuance of the FRO was error, as the conduct in question constituted merely "domestic contretemps" within the meaning of Corrente v. Corrente, 281 N.J. Super. 243 (App. Div. 1995), and Peranio v. Peranio, 280 N.J. Super. 47 (App. Div. 1995); 2) he was denied due process because the hearing on the FRO took place only two days after he was served with a temporary restraining order (TRO); and 3) the judge erred by failing to advise him of his right to counsel. We affirm.
After twenty-two years of marriage, the parties separated in August 2010. Plaintiff remained in the former marital home, and defendant moved to Pennsylvania. In the middle of November 2010, plaintiff changed the locks. To the best of her knowledge at that time, defendant had not entered the home in her absence, and had certainly not entered the home while she was present. After the parties separated, or slightly before, plaintiff established a relationship with another man.*fn1 On February 6, 2011, defendant sent plaintiff a text message that led her to conclude defendant had been "spying on [her]." The text message said:
I guess you were with him before you made me leave and you put blame on me. You know what, I'm coming home to my kids and home today to stay.
Plaintiff believed that defendant's reference to her boyfriend was the result of defendant following her or observing her surreptitiously.
On Friday, February 18, 2011, plaintiff received the first of approximately thirty text messages sent by defendant over the course of that weekend. The first message referred to defendant having entered the former marital home, without plaintiff's knowledge or permission, and having found roses in the house plaintiff's boyfriend had sent her. Plaintiff emphasized that she had not given defendant permission to enter the house, and she had no idea how he would have been able to do so. Defendant's text message stated:
I don't want to fight. I threw roses out, house cleaned, liquor, and you're sick. I left medical card on counter and going through mail. Your $13,000 account was there. Why you -- why you doing this? Don't want to come around the house and find someone. If you don't have any feelings or love for me after all we've been through tell me, but don't leave me thinking we can be as one again. . . . No man gifts or anything construed as you with another man in this house.
Over the next three and one-half hours, among other messages, defendant sent these:
All is gone, all your money and mine will be with lawyers.
That $13,000 we have you can use five for your lawyer. Enjoy weekend with him.
Plaintiff testified that she interpreted the phrase "[e]njoy weekend with him" as a reference to her boyfriend. She did not respond to those text messages.
A little while later, defendant sent plaintiff another text message that "really disturbed [her]." At 4:11 p.m. he wrote:
Instead of f--king*fn2 this weekend, think about our family and say goodbye to him. You won't X [sic] him. You have thirty minutes to say goodbye to him.
Plaintiff testified that that particular text message made her "afraid, very afraid." Nine minutes later, at 4:20 p.m., defendant sent another message:
Detective worth every cent, name, address, work.
Plaintiff interpreted that message to mean that defendant had hired a detective to follow her and her boyfriend.
The 4:20 p.m. text message caused plaintiff to respond. She wrote, in reference to the medication prescribed to defendant for his manic-depressive disorder:
Take your meds. Goodbye Tom. Sorry you don't give money to [our] kids and waste it on a detective. Leave me alone, you're now harassing me.
Rather than leave plaintiff alone, as she had requested, ten minutes later, defendant sent another text, ...