NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued October 8, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FM-12-442-11.
Theodore Sliwinski argued the cause for appellant.
Donald Schumacher argued the cause for respondent (Weinstein Lindemann & Weinstein, attorneys; Mr. Schumacher, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Koblitz and O'Connor.
Defendant Maureen Repmann Ross challenges rulings made by the trial court before and during the trial in this action for divorce, as well as in the judgment of divorce, entered on February 27, 2012. After reviewing the record, the positions of the parties, and the applicable law, we reverse.
The first issue defendant raises in this appeal is that the trial court improperly denied her request to temporarily suspend the divorce trial after she informed the court she had a medical condition which precluded her from being present during the trial. After denying defendant's adjournment request, the court continued and concluded the trial in defendant's absence.
The record reveals that the judge granted defendant four requests to adjourn the trial, which finally commenced on January 10, 2013. Just before plaintiff Marc Ross called his first witness, defendant advised the court she was having a "medical emergency, " but was "perfectly willing to stay under the circumstances." During the remainder of the day defendant did not request an adjournment or any other kind of accommodation pertaining to any medical problem. The trial was scheduled to resume two days later, on January 12, 2012.
The following day, defendant's doctor faxed from his office directly to the trial court's chambers a signed note, dated January 11, 2012, which was handwritten on a sheet from a prescription pad. The note stated:
[Defendant] is suffering from menorrhagiaStarted hormonal treatment today. I advise bed rest for then [sic] next 2-3 days, until her bleeding stops.
Defendant appeared in court on January 12, 2012 and requested that the trial be adjourned based upon the note from her doctor. The judge denied the request, stating:
I'm going to put . . . on the record, the reasons why; this court – this may be the first time – probably is the first time I've denied a request for an adjournment based on medical reasons, or alleged medical reasons. The reason I'm doing it is [because] this case has a long and tortured history where this is a pattern of behavior on your part, where every time we approach resolving the case, there are requests for adjournments either based on discovery, based on health reasons, ...