Law Lessons from E.M.Y. v. D.Y., App. Div., A-4791-10T1, January 28, 2013:
When error in a judge’s fact-finding is asserted, the appellate court’s scope of review is limited. Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co. of Am., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974). The appellate court will only decide whether, considering the proof as a whole, there is substantial evidence in the record which supports the judge’s findings. Ibid. The appellate court should defer to the ability of the fact-finder to judge credibility. State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 474 (1999). Because the trial judge had the opportunity to assess the credibility and demeanor of the witnesses first-hand, the appellate court defers to the judge’s factual determinations, so long as they are supported by substantial credible evidence in the record. Rova Farms Resort, Inc., supra, 65 N.J. at 484.
This standard is further amplified in the context of Family Part proceedings. “Because of the family courts’ special jurisdiction and expertise in family matters, appellate courts should accord deference to family court[s'] factfinding.” Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 413 (1998).
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