On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FV-12-1236-12.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Harris and Hoffman.
Defendant R.L. appeals from a February 24, 2012 final restraining order (FRO) entered against him in favor of his wife, plaintiff A.L., based on a finding of the predicate offense of harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4(b),*fn1 under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. He asserts that "the trial court, in entering into evidence and relying upon a transcript from a former domestic violence proceeding conducted by another judge" (1) "failed to rely on admissible evidence," (2) failed "to make independent findings of fact," and (3) failed "to independently observe each party's demeanor to make a self-determined finding of each party's credibility." We disagree and affirm.
The parties are married and are the parents of a daughter now five years old. In September 2011, defendant initiated divorce proceedings in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. In that same month, plaintiff obtained a temporary restraining order against defendant in the Family Part, Union vicinage, where plaintiff was residing at the time.
A trial under the Act was conducted on September 29, 2011, which resulted in the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint. Both parties were represented by counsel and both testified extensively. Plaintiff claimed that she was victimized by defendant four times while the parties were in Maryland, the last incident occurring one month earlier, on August 11, 2011. The Union judge concluded that two of the four alleged incidents of domestic violence occurred: plaintiff was assaulted by defendant and required eighteen stitches on February 13, 2011, and defendant harassed plaintiff using a belt in a threatening manner on August 11, 2011. The other two events were determined to be inconsequential.*fn2
Notwithstanding these conclusions, the Union judge declined to enter an FRO and dismissed the action, stating the following:
I'm not going to be entering a Final Restraining Order in this case. As [plaintiff] testified, [defendant] is not going to be making a scene. And he'd never -- he would never make a scene in public. He never does that.
This, I think, falls into the concept that the courts have used, called 'marital contretemps.' In other words, the . . . marriage has gotten to the point where this type of incident is getting out of hand. It . . . can become violent as, to some extent, it did here.
However, it's fairly -- so I have to judge whether or not there's a likelihood -- a reasonable likelihood of future acts of domestic violence will occur. I don't find ...