On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FV-15-455-12.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 15, 2012
Before Judges Sabatino and Fasciale.
In this unopposed appeal, defendant C.C.C. appeals from a September 20, 2011 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 and remand for a new FRO hearing.
The parties dated for "[a] couple of years on and off." On September 6, 2011, plaintiff filed a domestic violence (DV) complaint and obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) against defendant based on her allegation that on September 5, 2011, defendant committed the predicate acts of harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, and stalking, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10. The DV complaint also references a prior act of domestic violence that occurred on August 13, 2011.*fn2
On September 11, 2011, defendant violated the no contact provision of the TRO by emailing plaintiff. On September 12, 2011, police officers arrested defendant and charged him with fourth-degree contempt, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9b.*fn3 Defendant made bail and was released.
On September 20, 2011, the parties appeared pro se for the FRO hearing. Plaintiff testified that at 5:00 a.m. on September 5, 2011, defendant showed up drunk where she and her boyfriend had been staying, and screamed that he would "beat up [her boyfriend]." The police arrived, towed defendant's car, and drove him home. The next day, plaintiff obtained the TRO.
Plaintiff also testified about the August 13, 2011 incident mentioned in her DV complaint. Plaintiff stated that she had decided to end the relationship, leave defendant's home where she had been staying, and have one last dinner together. Plaintiff informed her boyfriend about her dinner plans with defendant, and she left with defendant as planned. On their way to dinner, defendant screamed at plaintiff that her boyfriend did not deserve her. Defendant stopped the car, she got out, and he then grabbed her wrists. She returned to the car, they had dinner, and he drove her back to his house. She moved out on August 13, 2011.
The judge then elicited testimony from plaintiff regarding several incidents not mentioned in the DV complaint. For instance, plaintiff stated that on January 20, 2011, defendant grabbed her legs and held her down, on other days she "observed [defendant communicating online with other women] many times," over a two-year period he hit her "[m]aybe ten" times, and that defendant subjected her to emotional abuse "that would take too long to explain." The September 6, 2011 TRO did not mention any of these incidents. The judge also permitted plaintiff to produce a photograph dated June 20, 2011, depicting bruising on her body.
Defendant attempted to refute plaintiff's testimony regarding the incidents not mentioned in the DV complaint. For instance, he attempted to explain that plaintiff was in Buffalo on January 20, 2011. The following colloquy occurred between the judge and defendant:
Court: What proof do you have that she was in Buffalo [on ...