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A.H.-O. v. B.T.O.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

August 8, 2013

A.H.-O., Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
B.T.O., Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 22, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FV-07-002693-12.

Spencer & Associates, L.L.C., attorneys for appellant (Remi L. Spencer, of counsel and on the briefs).

Lowenstein Sandler, PC, attorneys for respondent (Michael J. Hampson, on the brief).

Before Judges Simonelli and Accurso.

PER CURIAM

Defendant appeals from a final restraining order (FRO) entered against him pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, (the Act). We affirm.

The facts were established at a lengthy hearing conducted on April 30, 2012. The parties had been married for thirty-five years and had one child, a son twenty-one-years-old at the time of the hearing. Although attending college in a neighboring state, the son had recently been in trouble and his conduct had been a considerable source of stress and concern for both parents.

In May 2010, the young man had committed a disciplinary infraction that required his parents to meet with college officials and escort him home. Defendant testified that he had instructed plaintiff on the drive there that she was not to "say anything to him on the way back in the car." Defendant told his wife, "You know what? You have to stop playing with him. We have to knuckle down together and show this boy that we're serious as parents. You're not his friend. You're his mother." On the drive home, plaintiff testified that the atmosphere was very tense. Defendant, although silent throughout the two-and-a-half-hour drive, was pounding his fist on the console and plaintiff could see that he was becoming enraged.

When they pulled into their driveway, defendant ordered them to get out. He testified that he then started to address his son, saying "How dare you almost mess up in school." Defendant was yelling and plaintiff told her husband to calm down. He responded by pushing her, the first time he had ever done so in public. Defendant admitted pushing her, but claimed she pushed him first while he was arguing with their son.

Plaintiff quickly called to their son to get into her car which was parked in front of the one they had just exited. She then jumped into the driver's seat and locked the doors. Plaintiff, who was blocked in, asked her husband to "just back your car out, you know, just let us out." Defendant refused and instead began pounding on the windows and ordering them to get out of the car.

When defendant refused to move his car, plaintiff backed up and attempted to drive across the lawn to get away from him. Defendant picked up a large brick and smashed the driver's side window and reached into the car. Plaintiff testified that she tried to drive away without hurting him, but her husband was "trying to pull himself more into the car" and "snatch the keys out of the ignition." The situation ended after a neighbor called the police. Plaintiff declined to press charges, not wanting to put her "husband" in the system.

Defendant admitted smashing the window and pulling the keys from the ignition. He testified that he did so only after his wife became "frantic" when he told her to stop when he was arguing ...


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