NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 14, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FO-13-0319-12.
Gold, Albanese & Barletti, attorneys for appellant (Michael S. Williams, on the brief).
Christopher J. Gramiccioni, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Caitlin J. Sidley, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Hayden and Hoffman.
Defendant C.C.L. appeals from the May 4, 2012 order finding her guilty of two counts of contempt of a final restraining order (FRO) issued under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, a disorderly persons offense, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9b. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.
Defendant and E.L. (Eli) were married in 2000 and had two daughters, one born in 2002 and the other in 2005. The final restraining order (FRO), the second one Eli had obtained against her, was entered on March 29, 2011. The FRO included a provision barring any communication between the parties except via email and text messaging, and then only concerning their two daughters. The FRO did not restrict defendant's ability to have phone contact with her daughters.
On June 16, 2011, defendant pled guilty to contempt, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(b), for violating a previous restraining order by calling Eli's home telephone on various dates in December 2010. In addition to financial penalties, the court required defendant to continue with psychological counseling.
The parties were divorced on July 6, 2011. Their property settlement agreement (PSA) provided that Eli "shall have sole legal and residential custody of the children born of the marriage, with the understanding that the legal designation may be modified at such time as the Wife completes her out-patient treatment program as recommended by the Division of Youth [and] Family Services." The PSA included a schedule for defendant to have supervised parenting time and provided for the children "to place a call to their mother at 7:30 p.m. daily[.]" The PSA also contained language that superseded the FRO regarding parenting time matters. Finally, the PSA provided that "Husband shall pay limited duration alimony directly to the Wife in the amount of [$1200] per month for a period of five . . . years, commencing August 1, 2011."
By August 2011, the situation between the parties appeared to improve, with Eli calling defendant to discuss amending the FRO, and other matters. He also called and asked defendant what she wanted for her birthday, and then after buying her a necklace as a birthday gift, called to see if she liked it.
The incidents giving rise to this appeal occurred as follows. The first count of contempt arose from emails the parties exchanged concerning various matters, including the children, a storage unit, and financial matters. The second count concerned telephone calls from defendant to Eli asking to speak with the ...