Annotate this Case












April 21, 2015


Submitted March 24, 2015 Decided

Before Judges Reisner and Higbee.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FM-13-0250-12.

August J. Landi, attorney for appellant.

Frances D. Shelley, respondent pro se.


Plaintiff appeals from two orders dated December 30, 2013 and March 6, 2014, entered by Superior Court Judge Mara Zazzali-Hogan, confirming a matrimonial arbitration award and entering a final divorce judgment. We conclude that we have no jurisdiction to review the order and judgment, and dismiss this appeal.

Plaintiff and defendant agreed to arbitrate the financial issues of their divorce under the Alternative Procedure for Dispute Resolution Act (APDRA), N.J.S.A. 2A:23A-1 to -30. After various proceedings, the arbitrator issued a detailed decision from which plaintiff requested modification. His request for modification was out of time, yet, the arbitrator addressed each of his substantive contentions, and affirmed the award.

Defendant then moved before the Superior Court to confirm the award, and plaintiff filed a cross-motion, contesting confirmation and seeking modification, essentially arguing the same points as in the application to the arbitrator for modification of the original award. The trial court issued an opinion and order, confirming the arbitration award, and denying plaintiff's contentions. Plaintiff then moved for reconsideration of the court's confirmation, again, essentially reiterating the same arguments. The court denied the motion for reconsideration, issuing a detailed opinion. The court's decision adopted and supplemented its previous decision confirming the award.

In its decision confirming the award, the court found that plaintiff failed to cite any legally cognizable reason to vacate or modify the award. The arbitrator issued a very thorough award. He gave defendant $30,000 a year in alimony and fifty percent of the stock units that plaintiff received from his employer's stock option plan during the marriage. The arbitrator also awarded defendant twenty-five percent of plaintiff's annual bonuses, as part of her support.

In this appeal, plaintiff again raises the same arguments that he made in his previous three attempts to modify the award. Specifically, he argues that the award was unclear as to the cut-off date on which to value the stock. He argues that "during coverture" means the cut-off date is the filing of the divorce complaint, not the date of the divorce judgment. The arbitrator clearly addressed that issue in a supplemental decision.

Next, plaintiff argues that the arbitrator should have imputed income to defendant. Her actual income was $58,000. He claims she could earn $76,000. The arbitrator acknowledged that argument, but rejected it. The arbitrator was not obligated to accept the opinion of plaintiff's expert.

Plaintiff also argues that the wife dissipated $800,000 in assets. The arbitrator considered and rejected that argument, finding that both sides were involved in the financial decisions leading to the loss of the money.

The trial court in two well-reasoned and comprehensive opinions found plaintiff's arguments lacked merit, and that plaintiff had not demonstrated that the arbitrator committed any factual or legal error. In contesting the court's December 30, 2013 order and opinion confirming the award, plaintiff also argues that the judge failed to perform her appellate function as required by N.J.S.A. 2A:23A-13(e) & (f). Finally, plaintiff contends that the facts of this case implicate public policy reasons to warrant appellate review.

The APDRA, N.J.S.A. 2A:23A-1 to -30, is a voluntary procedure for alternative dispute resolution. Mt. Hope Dev. Assoc. v. Mt. Hope Waterpower Project, 154 N.J. 141, 145 (1998). The grounds to vacate, modify or correct an arbitration award under the APDRA are limited. An arbitrator's decision on the facts is final if supported by substantial evidence. N.J.S.A. 2A:23A-13(b). Appeals pursuant to the APDRA may be filed with the trial division of the Superior Court, which can vacate or modify an award, but only if certain conditions are present. Here, the trial court exercised its appellate review role, and found the arbitration award should be confirmed.

The question before us is whether we have jurisdiction to hear plaintiff's appeal from the trial court's decision, under N.J.S.A. 2A:23A-18(b). The Supreme Court has determined that, in general, N.J.S.A. 2A:23A-18(b) precludes appellate review with only a few exceptions, in rare circumstances, where the Appellate Division is compelled by public policy concerns or the need to exercise its supervisory authority. Mt. Hope, supra, 154 N.J. at 141.

None of those rare circumstances exist in this case. Plaintiff's arguments that public policy issues require our review in this matter lack sufficient merit to warrantdiscussionin awritten opinion. R.2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We, therefore, dismiss this appeal, as we lack jurisdiction.