New Jersey, as most States, take acts of domestic violence very seriously. The difficult part for a Court hearing a Domestic Violence case is to determine whether the alleged act is truly domestic violence or merely marital strife or conflict, which the Courts call “Domestic Contretemps“. That is usually the case when a harassment claim is made by one spouse against the other. Obviously, if there is pyhsical violence, where one spouse is clearly the aggressor, the Court’s decision is made easier.
What is defined as an act of domestic violence? First, the act has to have occurred and then that act must have caused the plaintiff to be in fear for his or her safety and well-being.
Our Courts essentially use the criminal statute definitions to define what might be an act of domestic violence. These acts include assault, harassment, kidnapping, stalking, criminal restraint, terroristic threats, criminal trespass and others.
You do not have to be married to be a victim of domestic violence, or to seek a restraining order. The person allegedly committing the act of domestic violence can be an existing or prior household member, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or someone who is in or had a dating relationship.
If one believes an act of domestic violence has been committed against him or herself, he or she can file for a Restraining Order. During the hours that the Superior Court is open, the party can proceed to the Courthouse domestic violence unit, and file for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). A case worker will sit with the victim and aid in completing the appropriate complaint and then bring the party to a Judge for consideration as to whether or not to enter the TRO. If the Courts are closed, such as an event occurring at night, the victim will call the local police who will respond, take down the information, and contact the Municipal Court Judge. A temporary restraining order (TRO) can then be issued via telephone. In either procedure the matter is listed for a hearing within ten (10) days of the alleged act. On the date of the hearing, the Judge will take the testimony of the parties who have every right to, and should be represented by counsel. He or she will then make a determination as to whether a Final Restraining Order (FRO) is filed. Upon the issuance of the TRO while waiting for the final hearing, the spouse causing the domestic violence is restrained from returning to the marital residence, the victim’s place of employment, and other locations requested by the victim. If the final restraining order (FRO) is entered, the perpetrator is barred from returning to the marital residence, the victim’s place of employment, to the scene of the domestic violence or having any communication or contact with the victim, unless otherwise specified in the Court’s Order. The victim is usually granted temporary custody of the children, and emergency support may also be ordered. If the aggressor has any firearms or weapons, they will be removed by the police and that spouse is not permitted to own any weapons or firearms until further Court Order.
If you are a victim of Domestic Violence, or you are named in a domestic violence action, it is very important that you retain counsel to either gain the maximum protection, or as a defendant, to vigorously defend the matter to protect your rights going forward. These are some serious consequences if one is found to have committed an act of domestic violence that can last long into the future.