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Pipitone v. Pipitone

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

December 12, 2013

DAVID A. PIPITONE, Plaintiff-Respondent,
DINA A. PIPITONE, Defendant-Appellant.


Submitted August 26, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, Docket No. FM-18-1068-03.

Judith G. Amorski, attorney for appellant.

Weinberger Law Group, LLC, attorneys for respondent (Jessica Ragno Sprague, on the brief).

Before Judges Alvarez and Maven.


In this post-judgment matrimonial matter, defendant appeals from the December 23, 2011 Family Part order that, among other things, affirmed plaintiff's entitlement to a $28, 620.92 credit towards equitable distribution. We affirm.

The parties were granted a Dual Judgment of Divorce From Bed and Board on September 15, 2004. The judgment included the parties' agreement to submit to binding arbitration to resolve the financial and equitable distribution issues related to the dissolution of the marriage.[1] During the years that followed, the parties engaged in substantial litigation regarding various financial matters. In an order issued on October 17, 2007, the court, among other things, modified plaintiff's responsibility toward certain marital expenses that were not contemplated or addressed in arbitration, and awarded him unspecified credits. On August 12, 2008, the court specified an amount of the credits and ordered that "[d]efendant shall receive all credits due and owing to him pursuant to the October 17, 2007 [o]rder of the [c]ourt, which are documented to be $28, 620.92."[2]

With regard to the contradictory reference to the terms "defendant" and "him" in the August 12, 2008 order, a December 17, 2010 order specified that "the parties raised the issue relating to the language of the August 12, 2008 [o]rder which does not clearly indicate who is to receive the credit of $28, 602.92."[3] The court directed the parties to investigate the issue and if they were unable to resolve the dispute, then it would be addressed by the court.

When the parties failed to reach an understanding, plaintiff filed a motion to correct what he asserted to be a clerical error in paragraph seven of the August 2008 order, which read that credits had been awarded to defendant rather than him, plaintiff. Defendant filed a cross-motion arguing that paragraph seven in the August 12, 2008 order had been crossed out by the motion judge. In reply, plaintiff provided the court with a transcript of the August 2008 proceeding and a clean, executed copy of the August 12, 2008 order.

On December 23, 2011, following oral argument, Judge Angela F. Borkowski rendered an oral decision and filed an eight-page statement of reasons. The judge was satisfied, upon a review of the transcript and order entered by the prior trial judge, as well as the FJD and prior orders, that adequate evidence existed in the record to establish a clerical error in paragraph seven of the August 2008 order. Accordingly, the judge affirmed that plaintiff was entitled to receive the $28, 620.92 credit towards his equitable distribution obligation. The judge also ordered defendant to pay plaintiff $38, 809.92 in full satisfaction of her obligation towards equitable distribution and unpaid counsel fees.

Defendant contends in this appeal:

A. The Arbitrator's Decision Should Not Be Disturbed.
B. Paragraph 7 Of The Order Of August 12, 2008 Was Excised And Should Not Be Now Included Based Upon All Relevant Evidence And The Relevant Case Law.

Our review of the record leads us to conclude that these contentions are without merit and do not warrant extended discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We add only the following brief comments.

The scope of our review of a trial court's findings of fact is limited. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 411 (1998). "The general rule is that findings by the trial court are binding on appeal when supported by adequate, substantial, credible evidence." Id. at 411-12. We accord particular deference to the judge's fact-finding because of "the family courts' special jurisdiction and expertise in family matters." Id. at 413; see Crespo v. Crespo, 395 N.J.Super. 190, 193 (App. Div. 2007).

As a threshold matter, we note that defendant appealed from paragraphs one and two of the December 23, 2011 order. Paragraph one pertains to the credit owed to plaintiff and paragraph two relates to defendant's obligation to satisfy her equitable distribution to plaintiff. Defendant's brief does not address any errors in the December 23, 2011 order with respect to Judge Borkowski's decision. Nor does the brief assert any legal basis for our review of that order. Rather, defendant expresses dissatisfaction with the prior judge's interpretation of the arbitration decision, the prior orders, including the October 17, 2007 order in which the credit was established, and the prior judge's reasons underlying the August 12, 2008 order. Defendant never appealed the October 17, 2007 or August 12, 2008 orders.

Without a specific claim of error as to the December 23, 2011 order, supported by record references and relevant law, we cannot properly consider an appeal. See State v. Hild, 148 N.J.Super. 294, 296 (App. Div. 1977). Any issues related thereto are deemed waived and abandoned. See Pressler & Verniero, Current N.J. Court Rules, comment 4 on R. 2:6-2 (2014); see also Gormley v. Wood-El, 422 N.J.Super. 426, 437 n.3 (App. Div. 2011), leave to appeal granted, 210 N.J. 25 (2012).


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