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L.W. v. R.L.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 26, 2013

L.W., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
R.L., Defendant-Respondent. R.L., Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
L.W., Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 14, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket Nos. FV-14-1094-12 and FV-14-1079-12.

Weiner Lesniak, LLP, attorneys for appellant (Joseph M. Freda, III, of counsel and on the briefs).

Smith & Doran, P.C., attorneys for respondent (Rebecca M. Grather, on the brief).

Before Judges Fuentes, Simonelli and Haas.

PER CURIAM

In these two consolidated cases, appellant L.W. appeals from the June 20, 2012 final restraining order (FRO) entered against her pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, and from the June 20, 2012 order denying her application for a FRO. While we affirm the denial of L.W.'s request for a FRO, we are constrained to remand the matter for further consideration and an articulation of reasons for the Family Part's decision to grant a FRO against L.W.

I.

We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record of the bench trial conducted on June 20, 2012. L.W. and R.L. are not married, but they lived together between 1994 and May 19, 2012, and have three teenage sons.

The parties presented contradictory accounts of the nature of their relationship and the May 19, 2012 incident that is the subject of this appeal. R.L. described their entire nineteen-year relationship as "[e]xtremely rocky." For the past three years, he asserted the parties were only living together because they were waiting for their oldest child to graduate from high school. He claimed that, in recent weeks, L.W. had hired a "private detective" to watch him. On the other hand, L.W. testified the parties were still involved in an intimate relationship and she referred to R.L. as "my husband." According to L.W., "[w]e functioned as a wonderful family right up until the [May 19, 2012] incident." At the same time, however, L.W. testified that she recently confronted R.L. with allegations that he had been unfaithful and "begged [R.L.] almost every day to please leave the home."

On May 19, 2012, both parties awoke before 5:30 a.m. R.L. testified that when he went into "my office, " he found L.W. going through his prescription drugs and taking notes. He stated L.W. then "went to her office, which is in the living room" and he could tell "she was really mad . . . ." He went to L.W.'s office to give her the children's passports, [1] but "[be]cause she was still really mad[, ]" he returned to his office. L.W. came to his office, sat down, and told R.L. she wanted "to talk now." The parties began to argue. R.L. asserted that L.W. "kept using the words husband and wife, she kept using the word[] marriage." R.L. told L.W., "this is not a marriage." After making this comment, R.L. testified that L.W.'s "eyes glazed over, her face glazed over and she screamed this is not a marriage?" L.W. then slapped him "across the side of the head."

After she slapped him, R.L. testified L.W. "grabbed my computer monitor and threw it on the floor." She then grabbed another monitor and a photocopier and threw them on the floor. As she was reaching for the third monitor, R.L. testified he grabbed his keys and cell phone and went outside. He returned to retrieve his cigarettes and saw L.W. "storming out of the office ranting and raving, she is - - she's literally spitting, this is not a marriage." R.L. testified L.W. said "something about getting a hammer" and then went into the garage. R.L. began to leave the house and, as he approached the front door, he heard L.W. say "something about some - - destroying my office or smashing my office and then screaming, killing you."

R.L. drove to a convenience store, called the police, and was told to return to the house to wait. Officer George Quentz testified he was one of the officers who responded to the home. R.L. told the officer that L.W. "had basically torn apart his office and he did not - - he was basically scared of her." The officer stated L.W. "[w]as not very cooperative with answering questions or telling me what happened." When he went into the office, he found "[i]t was trashed . . . . [T]he office ...


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