C.K. v. W.S.

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December 18, 2014


Submitted October 15, 2014 - Decided

Before Judges Hoffman and Whipple.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FV-12-1873-10.

W.S., appellant pro se.

Respondent has not filed a brief.


Defendant W.S., a self-represented litigant, appeals two orders of the Family Part. While the notice of appeal references June 24, 2013 and June 26, 2013 orders, it appears defendant is, in substance, challenging the entry of a final restraining order ("FRO") from March 2010. Having reviewed the appeal in light of the record before us and applicable principles of law, we dismiss because the appendix lacks the documents necessary for meaningful appellate review.

The notice of appeal states that no transcript is available because there was no verbatim record of the proceedings. There are no opinions or statements of reasons presented. In support of this appeal, defendant has submitted a brief, an incomplete appendix and a supplemental letter brief. The appendix contains various reports, copies of emails, photographs, unidentified transcript pages, partial and incomplete orders and notices of motion. Plaintiff filed nothing in response.

The limited record before us suggests the following facts and timeline. The parties formerly had a relationship and have a minor child together. On March 16, 2010, a FRO was entered against defendant, barring contact with plaintiff and prohibiting defendant from visiting plaintiff's residence or place of employment. Defendant was required to undergo drug and alcohol treatment and complete anger management counseling.

On June 8, 2010, defendant moved to dismiss the FRO, but the motion was denied. Defendant had not completed required anger management or drug treatment. On November 12, 2010, and September 15, 2011, defendant moved to dismiss the FRO. He was unsuccessful. On November 14, 2011, defendant moved for reconsideration and was again unsuccessful.

In December 2011, the FRO was amended to provide that the parties shall only communicate through email regarding their daughter. On January 24, 2012, and again on November 14, 2012, defendant moved for sole custody, but did not prevail.

Defendant sought leave to appeal, and on October 17, 2013, we concluded that the assortment of orders "collectively constitute a final disposition of the custody/visitation dispute," thus entitling defendant to file a notice of appeal. He was granted indigent status and subsequently filed this appeal.

Defendant's brief discusses the legitimacy of the FRO; however, defendant did not appeal the March 2010 FRO, nor has defendant submitted the transcripts or complete orders regarding the FRO. Moreover, the trial court issued an amended FRO, only partial copies of which are contained in defendant's appendix. Defendant appeals from orders entered on June 24, 2013, and June 26, 2013.

The June 24, 2013 order adjourned a plenary hearing scheduled for August 8, 2013, regarding the issue of parenting and custody. Defendant had complied with a previous requirement to complete an anger management program, but had failed to provide proof of completion of a drug and alcohol evaluation as previously ordered. Defendant was ordered to provide proof of completion in advance of any hearing. The parties were ordered to contact a DNA testing coordinator within ten days to schedule paternity testing in relation to the minor child, I.S., and to ensure that testing was complete no later than July 25, 2013.

The June 26, 2013 order administratively dismissed the hearing due to defendant's failure to complete the required drug and alcohol evaluation. The motion was dismissed without prejudice so that defendant could reapply for the relief sought with proof of completion of a drug or alcohol evaluation. The paternity test requirement still had full force and effect.

Based upon the record before us, defendant has not been deprived of the ability to go forward with his Family Part custody hearing upon completion of anger management and drug treatment because the orders were entered without prejudice. Consideration of the appropriateness of those orders, or any other issues raised, is precluded because the incomplete record before us does not allow for meaningful review.

An appellant's appendix must contain parts of the record "essential to the proper consideration of the issues." R. 2:6-1(a)(1). Where the failure to provide such records precludes meaningful review, an appellate court may dismiss an appeal. In re Zakhari, 330 N.J. Super. 493, 495 (App. Div. 2000); see also R. 2:8-2 (providing that an appellate court may, at any time and on its own motion, dismiss an appeal).

Therefore, due to the incomplete and inadequate record provided by defendant, we dismiss the appeal without prejudice.

Appeal dismissed.

1 To protect the identity of the parties' minor child and afford plaintiff the full continued protection and privacy which the final restraining order is designed to provide, we refer to the parties by their initials in this opinion.