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Domestic Violence

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New Jersey Courts have been tasked with addressing domestic violence since 1991, when the New Jersey Legislature declared that domestic violence is a serious crime against society. Since that time, Judges in all New Jersey Courts, including Bergen County have been resolving requests for Restraining Orders. Domestic Violence issues often arise as part of Divorce proceedings. However, domestic violence does not only occur in the context of a divorce or between married people. To obtain the protection of a restraining order, a specific type of relationship must exist between the victim and the alleged perpetrator. More specifically, an individual over the age of 18 can qualify as a victim of domestic violence if they have been subjected to violence by a: spouse; former spouse; or any other person who is a present or former household member. Likewise, if the victim and perpetrator have a child together or are expecting a child together, or the two individuals have been involved in a dating relationship, then there is no age limit set by the act.

In addition to being a crime, the New Jersey Domestic Violence Act (N.J.S.A. 2C: 25-18 to 2C:25-35) provides for the issuance of a Restraining Order to protect an alleged victim. Restraining Orders take two forms in Bergen County and statewide. The first type of a Restraining Order is known as a Temporary Restraining Order. The second type of Restraining Order is known as a Final Restraining Order.

In order to obtain either a Temporary Restraining Order or a Final Restraining Order, an alleged victim must show three different things. The first is that the alleged victim must be a “victim” under the definition that is set forth in the New Jersey Domestic Violence Act. The second thing a victim must show is that the alleged perpetrator committed one of the acts that constitute domestic violence under the statute. The third thing a victim must show is that a restraining order is “necessary to protect the life, health or well-being of a victim.”; or the victim is “in danger of domestic violence.”, or that there is “good cause shown”.

A Temporary Restraining Order can be issued by a Judge of the Superior Court, a Hearing Officer, or a Municipal Court Judge, if the alleged incident of violence occurs outside of the normal operating hours of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County (Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to at least 3:30 PM) and the Court’s Domestic Violence Intake Unit. A Temporary Restraining Order can be, and generally is, obtained without notice to the other party or on what is referred to as an ex parte basis. This means that only the individual who is claiming to be a victim of domestic violence is providing testimony to the Court or the Hearing Officer. If a Temporary Restraining Order is issued, a date will be set for a final hearing for purposes of determining whether the Temporary Restraining Order will be converted into a Final Domestic Violence Restraining Order.

A hearing to determine whether the alleged victim’s Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order shall become a Domestic Violence Final Restraining Order is generally conducted within 10 days of the Temporary Restraining Order being issued. Both parties are permitted to participate in the Final Restraining Order Hearing, unlike the proceedings that resulted in the Temporary Restraining Order being issued. Due process requires that the person alleged to have committed an act or acts of domestic violence be provided notice of the allegations against him or her and that they be on notice as to what constitutes the basis for the allegations of Domestic Violence and any alleged prior history. The right to testify is central to the due process concerns in a Final Restraining Order Hearing. Unlike some states, in New Jersey, if a Final Restraining Order is entered, it is entered for an indefinite period of time and does not expire.

In addition to being restrained from contact, a Judge can include other relief in a Final Restraining Order. This relief can include Orders for alimony, spousal support, child support child custody, parenting time, visitation, counsel fees, other economic relief, possession of property, substance abuse or drug/alcohol testing, other counseling, and/or a risk assessment, among other things. If Domestic Violence is determined to have occurred, the person committing the act of Domestic Violence will be fingerprinted, the Order will be entered in a national domestic violence registry and a statutory fine will be assessed.

Violations of a Final Restraining Order or a Temporary Restraining Order will generally subject the restrained party to criminal charges, when reported by the victim to the authorities.

In New Jersey, Domestic Violence, by definition includes a number of different acts:

  1. Homicide N.J.S.2C:11-1 et seq.
  2. Assault N.J.S.2C:12-1
  3. Terroristic threats N.J.S.2C:12-3
  4. Kidnapping N.J.S.2C:13-1
  5. Criminal restraint N.J.S.2C:13-2
  6. False imprisonment N.J.S.2C:13-3
  7. Sexual assault N.J.S.2C:14-2
  8. Criminal sexual contact N.J.S.2C:14-3
  9. Lewdness N.J.S.2C:14-4
  10. Criminal mischief N.J.S.2C:17-3
  11. Burglary N.J.S.2C:18-2
  12. Criminal trespass N.J.S.2C:18-3
  13. Harassment N.J.S.2C:33-4
  14. Stalking P.L.1992, c.209 (C.2C:12-10)
  15. Criminal coercion N.J.S.2C:13-5
  16. Robbery N.J.S.2C:15-1
  17. Contempt of a domestic violence order pursuant to subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:29-9 that constitutes a crime or disorderly persons offense
  18. Any other crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person protected under the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991,” P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et al.

If you believe you are the victim of domestic incident, your first step should be to get to a safe place and call the local Police Department who can direct you accordingly.

Unfortunately, because of the ex parte nature of a Temporary Restraining Order, the statute is also sometimes abused by people to try to gain a “leg up” in some related divorce, child custody or other litigation. Domestic Violence carries with it severe consequences. It is imperative that if you are falsely accused of Domestic Violence that you protect yourself.

Our attorneys are experienced in representing both victims of Domestic Violence and alleged perpetrators.