March 15, 2012
QIAN ZHONG, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
XUE YE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-1461-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 25, 2012
Before Judges Graves and Koblitz.
Defendant Xue Ye appeals from the December 3, 2010 order denying her request for reimbursement from plaintiff Qian Zhong for medical expenses paid on behalf of the parties' disabled son from 2005 through 2008. She also appeals the January 14, 2011 order denying reconsideration. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
We previously remanded to the motion judge for an expanded fact-finding on the issue of an outstanding debt between the parties stemming from medical expenses for their child. In our prior opinion, we summarized the factual background of this family as well as defendant's contentions on appeal, which we now incorporate by reference.
The motion judge's stated reasons for his December 3, 2010 order were that "there is no remaining balance of medical expenses owed to the [d]efendant by the [p]laintiff." At the time of his January 14, 2011 decision denying defendant's motion for reconsideration, he amplified those reasons:
The medical expenses issue has been an ongoing issue before me since approximately April of 2009. From what has been presented to me, it appears that the plaintiff has satisfied his debt to the defendant. However, Ms. Ye, the defendant, argues that the debt has not been paid. The discrepancy in calculations appears to come from a calculation of what is described in the property settlement agreement [(PSA)] as [the modified] van [with lift]. . . expenses as well as the sale of the van. And there's no question that this chattel is clearly addressed in the [PSA] and it did have an integral role to play in certainly the status of both children, given their acute medical needs.
This [c]court on July 2 of 2009 issue[d] an order. And part of that order were my reasons on the record indicating that while Ms. Ye had appended various billing statements to support her claim for money from the van expenses, there was no evidence by way of receipts of payment or cancelled checks to support her claim that she paid out the sum of $3181.36 by way of maintenance of this van . . . And all that is here are extremely redacted portions of credit card bills. Additionally, the defendant did not file her motion to reconsider when this request was denied back in July of 2009. And therefore, clearly, there is an issue of the appropriate timeliness of this filing.
The motion judge then indicated that the PSA, Section 15.2, states that "[b]oth parties shall equally share all repair and maintenance expenses related to the van." Each party was responsible for their own gasoline, toll, parking and repair expenses. Also, "[i]n case of a disposition of the van, the proceeds for the van should be split evenly."
On December 5, 2008, the judge ordered the van sold within thirty days and directed plaintiff to pay defendant $4879.04 in medical expenses, $408.19 in interest and $7.31 in copying expenses, for a total of $5294.54. Defendant sold the van for $7500 on March 4, 2009. She argued in July 2009 that plaintiff should receive only $1861.85 of his half of the proceeds based on van maintenance expenses, gasoline charges, and other expenses incurred after the judge ordered the van sold.*fn1
The judge stated, however, that he found insufficient documentary evidence at that time to support defendant's request.
On January 14, 2011, in explaining his reasons for denying defendant's motion for reconsideration, the judge indicated that plaintiff paid $1214.23 toward the $5294.54 owed to defendant, as well as $267.93 in interest. Further, the judge noted that defendant did not pay plaintiff the $3750 owed to him for the 2009 sale of the van. The motion judge therefore determined that plaintiff did not owe defendant payment for unreimbursed medical expenses.
Defendant raises the following issues on appeal:
POINT I:*fn2 THE COURT ERRED IN FACT FINDINGS THUS JUSTIFY FOR A APPEAL DIVISION' OWN FACT FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION.
POINT II: THE COURT DECISION BASED UPON CLEARLY INCORRECT BASIS WHICH JUSTIFIED FOR THE APPELLATE DIVISION' OWN FACT FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION.
POINT III: THE COURT ERRED IN "THE VAN ISSUE LITIGATED ALREADY."
POINT IV: THE COURT ERRED IN NOT CONSIDER VAN EXPENSES.
POINT V: THE COURT ERRED IN DECISION WITH GENUINE ISSUE OF MATERIAL FACT WITHOUT HEARING AND/OR SUPPORT FROM ANY EVIDENCE/FACTS/CERTIFICATION PRESENTED.
POINT VI: THE COURT DECISION HAS CLEAR AND HARMFUL ERROR AND CLEARLY CAPABLE OF PRODUCING AN UNJUST RESULT.
The motion judge has heard numerous motions since the parties were divorced on June 17, 2005. In his reasons for denying defendant's motion for reconsideration, the motion judge reviewed a few of his prior orders relevant to the issue of unreimbursed medical expenses for the parties' child.
The judge determined that he had already denied the van expenses sought by defendant in 2009 and therefore payment for these expenses could not be requested again. See Ducey v. Ducey, 424 N.J. Super. 68 (App. Div. Feb. 2, 2012) (slip op. at 8-13) (discussing the law of the case doctrine in the context of a family matter); see also Lombardi v. Masso, 207 N.J. 517 (2011) (indicating that the doctrine is intended to "prevent relitigation of a previously resolved issue") (citation omitted). Furthermore, plaintiff's share of the van's sale price, when added to his payments for unreimbursed medical expenses and interest, comes to within one hundred dollars of the medical expenses he was ordered to pay in December 2008. Thus, the motion judge did not abuse his discretion.
As we have indicated previously, a judge's findings of fact are binding on appeal "when supported by adequate, substantial, credible evidence." Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 412 (1998).
"Because of the family courts' special jurisdiction and expertise in family matters, appellate courts should accord deference to family court factfinding." Id. at 413. We conclude that the judge exercised his discretion appropriately in these matters, having acquired the "feel of the case." N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. M.M., 189 N.J. 261, 293 (2007) (internal quotations and citation omitted).