Appeal Of Default Divorce By Pro Se Party Unsuccessful
- September 28, 2015
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In Dippel v. Dippel, the Plaintiff appealed from a 2013 Final Divorce Judgment that was entered by default on the Defendant’s Counterclaim because the Plaintiff failed to comply with the Rules of the Court. The Plaintiff instituted divorce proceedings in 2010 and in 2012 the court dismissed his pleadings without prejudice for failure to comply with discovery requests. In 2012, the court denied the Plaintiff’s application to vacate the default judgment and allow him additional time to provide discovery. Later that year, the Plaintiff once again made an application to vacate his divorce judgment, which was denied. The court had advised the Defendant that she could proceed with default proceedings based upon her Counterclaim because the Plaintiff did not comply with discovery. A trial was held in 2013, at which, the trial judge thoroughly placed on the record the history of the Plaintiff’s failure to comply with discovery. The court then proceeded to adjudicate custody, parenting time, alimony, and child support. The court did not address equitable distribution, determining that any proceeds from the sale of assets shall be held in escrow. A Final Divorce Judgment was issued on June 13, 2013. The Plaintiff filed a pro se brief with the Appellate Court which did not comply with the Rules of the Court. N.J. Court Rule 2:5-4; N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. M.M., 189 N.J. 261, 278, 914 A.2d 1265 (2007). Further, the contents of the Plaintiff’s brief did not comply with N.J. Court Rule 2:6-2. In essence, the Plaintiff asked the Appellate Court to review the entire divorce proceedings in totem. According to the Appellate Division, the Defendant’s request mischaracterizes its role in the proceedings, as it is to give considerable discretionary decision to the Family Court. Donnelly v. Donnelly, 405 N.J. Super. 117, 127, 963 A.2d 855 (App. Div. 2009). When a Family Part judge has made findings of fact after considering the testimony and documents the parties have presented during a non-jury trial, the judge’s findings are generally “binding on appeal when supported by adequate, substantial, credible evidence.” Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 411-12, 713 A.2d 390 (1998). Further, “parties are required to make adequate legal argument.” 700 Highway 33 LLC v. Pollio, 421N.J. Super. 231, 238, 23 A3d 446 (App. Div. 2011). Conclusory assertions that a judge committed error, devoid of reference to the judge’s decision or the trial record, and further devoid of any attempt to apply the applicable precedent of the factual underpinnings of such conclusory assertions, do not satisfy the requirement. Therefore, the decision of the Family Court was affirmed. If you are considering and appeal of your final divorce judgment or you would like more information regarding divorce it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about divorce, uncontested divorce, equitable distribution, child support, alimony or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.