On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FV-02-2097-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued February 27, 2012 -
Before Judges Ashrafi and Fasciale.
Defendant appeals from a final restraining order (FRO) entered against him pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35.*fn1 We reverse, remand, and direct the judge to make further findings of fact consistent with this opinion.*fn2
The parties lived together and ended their relationship one month after the birth of their son. The issuance of the FRO relates to a phone call that defendant made to plaintiff within a few days after he received plaintiff's application seeking child support. Plaintiff contended that defendant's statements to her during the phone call constituted a predicate act of harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4a.
The judge conducted a two-day FRO hearing and listened to testimony from the parties and three other witnesses. Plaintiff testified that in the early evening of April 4, 2011, defendant called her and stated:
[H]e was going to make my life difficult again, with his sister [who] works for the court[,] and [his sister] was directing him on how to lose my son, so he won't have to pay child support.
He would say he's not going to give me anything, I'm a drug addict, [and] I'm a bad mother.
Defendant denied that he called her on April 4, 2011, claimed that he never objected to paying child support, but feared that if he paid plaintiff directly she would use the money to support her drug habit.
In an oral opinion, the judge found:
I find that the defendant has behaved in an intimidating and aggressive manner toward the plaintiff.
And I do think there are times when [defendant's] behavior and manner might cause alarm or fear when ...