Appellate Court Affirms FRO Ruling | Hark & Hark: Experienced NJ Appeal Attorneys
Docket No. A-2491-21
Decided June 20, 2023
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from a final restraining order (“FRO”) entered against him based on the predicate acts of sexual assault, assault, harassment, false imprisonment, and later criminal sexual contact and contempt after plaintiff amended her TRO complaint several weeks later.
The parties were married for over four years and did not share any children together. In December of 2021, plaintiff filed a complaint and obtained a temporary restraining order against defendant. At trial, plaintiff testified defendant forced her to have sexual relations with him when they were on vacation together in January of 2021. Plaintiff stated in her testimony that the defendant threw her phone at her during an argument in May of 2021, which hit her foot. Plaintiff further testified that defendant told her to forgive him and that they should just go back to bed. Once in bed, plaintiff testified that defendant wanted to have sex with her. She stated that when she pushed him away, defendant grabbed her hands, lifted her arms to her head, and put his legs between her legs, essentially forcing himself on her. Plaintiff also noted another instance of this occurring in November of 2021 as well. During her testimony, plaintiff also stated that around two weeks after she obtained the TRO, she observed defendant in his car near her driveway. The defendant had already been served with the TRO at this point in time.
When it was defendants turn to testify, he denied all of plaintiff’s allegations against him. He called a co-worker to testify on his behalf as well. Defendant’s witness rebuffed plaintiff’s claim that she saw the defendant in his car near her driveway in violation of the TRO. Following the conclusion of trial, the judge found that defendant committed the predicate acts of sexual assault and criminal sexual contact in May and November, but concluded that based on the parties’ “conflicting testimony” and certain portions of plaintiff’s testimony, which he deemed “vague,” plaintiff failed to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that any other predicate acts of domestic violence occurred. The judge also found that plaintiff required an FRO for her protection based on the parties’ prior history. Defendant subsequently appealed.
On appeal, defendant contended that the trial judge failed to articulate sound reasoning for his findings of fact, such that the FRO must be vacated.” Defendant also argued the judge’s findings of fact concerning the May and November 2021 incidents were woefully inadequate, and the judge did not express any basis for finding plaintiff credible other than the fact she mentioned a closet, which defendant did not dispute existed. Ultimately, the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, finding no reason to disturb their decision. The court indicated the trial court’s decision was based upon competent credible evidence and there was no basis to second-guess the finding that plaintiff required an FRO to protect her from further abuse.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to FRO trials. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.
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