NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued May 28, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket No. FV-03-1313-12.
Marissa J. Costello argued the cause for appellant/cross-respondent (Costello & Whitmore, attorneys; Ms. Costello, on the brief).
Kathleen P. Stockton argued the cause for respondent/cross-appellant (Archer & Greiner, attorneys; Ms. Stockton, on the brief).
Before Judges Parrillo, Sabatino and Fasciale.
This is a domestic violence case. Defendant J.G. appeals from the entry of a final restraining order (FRO) against him and in favor of plaintiff K.M., issued under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. Plaintiff cross-appeals from the July 20, 2012 order awarding her only fifty percent of her counsel fees. We affirm the FRO but remand on the counsel fee issue.
The parties began dating in April or May 2004. Defendant moved into plaintiff's home a year later. They have one son together, born January 23, 2006. On November 17, 2010, the parties separated and on December 17, 2010, they entered into a Parenting Agreement, which was later incorporated into a Consent Order, dated January 4, 2011.
This was, by all accounts, a tumultuous relationship. According to plaintiff, she suffered numerous incidents of physical and verbal abuse over the years, including her receipt of a vulgar and sexually explicit e-mail on October 30, 2011, in which defendant said, "they all still think you are just a donkey ape that can't stop getting penetrated and soiled. . . . Your parents must be very proud. You have had more cocks in you than a porcupine has pricks."
In the weeks immediately preceding plaintiff's filing of a domestic violence complaint against defendant on March 20, 2012, defendant had sent plaintiff a series of e-mails that, in essence, threatened to release or publish naked photographs of plaintiff unless she paid him certain sums of money. In one email, sent on February 21, 2012, defendant attached the photograph and asked for plaintiff's autograph on it, writing, "I still wish you would autograph my picture collection. Many people have seen the collection just unsigned." In another email on February 21, 2012, defendant asked for $275, 000 in exchange for the photograph. In a subsequent e-mail, defendant upped the ante: "Just went through the picture collection. Price is up to $550, 000. These are great! These will fund my retirement. I have to start selling these commercially to make money because you destroyed my business and my income is down. If it takes off, it could be great!" On February 21, 2012, defendant e-mailed plaintiff:
All pictures and documents are in the public domain already. I have e-mailed them to numerous friends and others for safe keeping in case you were successful stabbing me or other. My production company has copies as well. I wanted others to have the information at their disposal and be able to reconstruct events, etc. if anything were ever to happen.
I would have to say that you are probably the #1 woman in Medford history in Police reports and violent altercations.
Just covering my bases . . .
Shortly thereafter, on February 23, 2012, plaintiff reported these incidents to the Medford Police Department for the first time. On this occasion, she met with Detective Corporal Jason Deroian, told him that defendant was in possession of several nude photographs of her, and provided him with a series of e-mail communications between defendant and herself. While the police investigation was in progress, and during a custody exchange of their son on March 11, 2012, defendant showed plaintiff a large, oversized nude photograph of herself. As plaintiff describes the incident:
So I pulled up and [our son] came out of the house followed by [defendant]. And he was walking towards my car to get into the car and [defendant] walked behind him, walked over to his vehicle, opens the door to his vehicle and carries out a large poster-sized framed picture that had been identified as a naked picture of me. And as [our son] is walking towards me, [defendant] is behind him walking from the car to his house showing me the picture as he's walking to the front of his house.
I was in shock. I couldn't believe it. Anyone else who happened to be walking down the street could have seen this picture. My son could have easily turned around and seen this picture. If my other children had been in the car with me, they would have seen this picture. [Defendant] certainly didn't know if anybody was in the car with me. My car has tinted windows in the back. I was completely in shock. I never got out of my vehicle.
Fortunately, [our son] did not turn around. He just opened the door to my car, got in my car, and we drove away. And [defendant] had ...