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R.I.W. v. K.D.F.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

May 23, 2013

R.I.W., Plaintiff,
v.
K.D.F., Defendant. K.D.F., Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
R.I.W., Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 6, 2013.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket Nos. FV-09-1980-12B and FV-09-1981-12B.[1]

Kim & Bae, P.C., attorneys for appellant in FV-09-1980-12B (Wanda Molina, of counsel and on the brief).

Respondent in FV-09-1980-12B has not filed a brief.

Before Judges Sabatino and Maven.

PER CURIAM.

This appeal arises out of cross-complaints for restraints sought in the Family Part under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act ("PDVA"), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -25, by two adult female roommates, K.D.F. and R.I.W. On February 9, 2012, the parties had an argument at their apartment. The argument was the culmination of a long-standing disagreement over replacing another roommate, K.D.F.'s sister, and also about R.I.W.'s boyfriend, who was also living in the apartment.

The argument started with name-calling and escalated into a physical altercation with each pulling the other's hair and K.D.F. striking R.I.W. The hair-pulling was observed by R.I.W.'s boyfriend. At some point, R.I.W.'s nose began bleeding. Police were called and K.D.F. was arrested.

After the altercation, R.I.W. obtained a temporary restraining order ("TRO") against K.D.F., from a Family Part judge, and gained exclusive possession of the apartment. Approximately two days later, K.D.F. likewise obtained a TRO against R.I.W. from a different Family Part judge. The second judge modified the prior TRO to switch possession of the apartment to K.D.F. because K.D.F. had lived there first.

On March 1, 2012, both parties appeared, pro se, before the Family Part at a joint trial on their competing complaints. The court heard testimony from both parties, R.I.W.'s boyfriend (whom R.I.W. called as a witness), and an upstairs neighbor (whom K.D.F. called). After considering the proofs, the trial judge concluded that both parties had committed an assault upon one another. The judge entered a final restraining order against each of them. R.I.W. moved out of the apartment at the court's direction.

Now represented by counsel on appeal, R.I.W. raises a variety of arguments in an effort to set aside the FRO against her. R.I.W.'s brief asserts that she is a registered nurse, and she is concerned that the outstanding FRO will have an adverse impact upon her nursing license and employment. K.D.F. has not filed her own appeal, nor has she filed an opposing brief.

In particular, R.I.W. argues that (1) the trial court committed reversible error by not warning her before the trial about the serious consequences of a restraining order under the PDVA; (2) the court erred in failing to advise her that she could retain counsel; (3) the court should not have granted possession of the apartment to K.D.F.; (4) the court should have allowed her to amend her complaint and amplify her testimony to include other alleged prior acts of domestic violence by K.D.F.; and (5) the evidence was insufficient to support the issuance of the FRO against R.I.W. Upon careful consideration of these arguments, we affirm.

To obtain an FRO under the PDVA, a complainant must establish two key elements by a preponderance of the evidence. First, a complainant must prove that defendant committed one of the predicate offenses, as enumerated in N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a). Here, the predicate offense established against both parties is assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1, which is one of the enumerated offenses under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a). Second, if a predicate offense is proven, the complainant must also show that a restraining order is necessary for her protection. Silver v. Silver, 387 N.J.Super. 112, ...


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