ERIC MICHAEL GOTTBETTER v. MARCIE F. GOTTBETTERAnnotate this Case
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
DOCKET NO. A-0
ERIC MICHAEL GOTTBETTER,
MARCIE F. GOTTBETTER,
October 28, 2014
Submitted September 16, 2014 - Decided
Before Judges Fisher and Manahan.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-1660-07.
Eric Michael Gottbetter, appellant pro se.
Snyder & Sarno, attorneys for respondent (Scott D. Danaher, of counsel and on the brief).
Plaintiff seeks to vacate multiple post-judgment orders entered by the trial court. We affirm.
Plaintiff previously appealed a counsel fee award in favor of defendant. We found insufficient merit in plaintiff's arguments to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). In affirming the counsel fee award, we noted plaintiff's "attempt to perpetrate a fraud (by misrepresenting his income) must come at a price . . . ." Gottbetter v. Gottbetter, No. A-3300-09 (App. Div. Feb. 14, 2011) (slip op. at 5).
In a subsequent appeal, plaintiff appealed an order compelling payment of the children's unreimbursed medical expenses and an additional award of counsel fees. Defendant cross-appealed the court's finding that plaintiff's IRA could not be liquidated or encumbered to satisfy the counsel fee award. We rejected plaintiff's appeal and granted defendant's cross-appeal, holding that plaintiff's IRA "is not immune and may be invaded to pay the counsel fee award." Gottbetter v. Gottbetter, No. A-4800-10 (App. Div. June 19, 2012) (slip op. at 10), certif. denied, 212 N.J. 460 (2012). We also entered an order requiring plaintiff to pay additional counsel fees. Id. at 10-11. On remand, the trial court entered the orders which are the subject of this appeal.
On this, his third appeal, plaintiff raises fourteen discrete arguments. After our review of the record, we conclude that plaintiff's arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We note one exception, i.e., whether defendant should be ordered to undergo a substance evaluation.
Defendant was arrested twice within a five-year period for driving while intoxicated. Defendant has residential custody of the children. When plaintiff sought to have defendant undergo a substance evaluation, the judge, familiar with the parties' litigation history, found the request to be "disingenuous."
If the children the children you both know me. I always say the children are the most important part of the case and if he thinks that Ms. Gottbetter has some substance abuse issues and the children are in danger, why isn't that the first thing that's stated in the cross motion?
Why wasn't it brought as a motion and you know, why is it buried after all of the money issues? It's the last priority the way it's set up on the papers and I found that to be very disingenuous on behalf of your client. And I'll hear you on that, by the way.
Citing Hand v. Hand, 391 N.J. Super. 102 (2007), the trial court found no "compelling reason" to order evaluations. The court found there to be no "demonstration of changed circumstances that affect the welfare of the children" or "genuine and substantial factual disputes here regarding the welfare of the children." In making this finding, the trial court relied upon defendant's certification that she did not operate a motor vehicle and was currently sober. No certification was offered in rebuttal by plaintiff.
As we noted in Hand, "Family Part judges are frequently called upon to make difficult and sensitive decisions regarding the safety and well-being of children. Because of their special expertise in family matters, we do not second-guess their findings and the exercise of their sound discretion." Id. at 111 (citation omitted).
Here, the trial judge had experience in dealing with both plaintiff and defendant in the course of their numerous post-judgment motions. While we are concerned about defendant's abuse of alcohol in the context of her parenting role, given our deference to the trial judge, we will not "second-guess" the decision.