Appellate Court Upholds FRO in Domestic Violence Case: Hark & Hark Represents Clients in Appeals
Docket No. A-1972-21
Decided April 17, 2023
Submitted by New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from an amended final restraining order (“FRO”) entered against him under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (“PDVA”).
The parties were in a dating relationship and lived together between December 2020 and October 2021. On October 3, 2021, plaintiff filed a domestic violence complaint against defendant alleging defendant committed the predicate act of terroristic threats the day prior. Plaintiff also noted a previous history of domestic violence between the parties, and was issued a temporary restraining order (“TRO”).
After multiple adjournments for various reasons, plaintiff eventually retained counsel and filed an amended TRO on November 23, 2021. The amended TRO alleged the occurrence of additional act of terroristic threats on October 2, and specified two other prior acts of domestic violence.
After a few more adjournments for various reasons, the FRO trial was finally held on January 18, 2022 via Zoom. Defense counsel told the judge defendant consented moving forward via Zoom. Defendant was placed under oath, but plaintiff was not. At trial, plaintiff testified that, as she was moving out of the parties’ apartment following the end of their relationship, defendant accused her of stealing some of his belongings. Plaintiff further claimed that when she refused defendant’s request for her apartment key, defendant pulled out a knife and threatened to slash her tires. Plaintiff also claimed that after she left the apartment, defendant called her and threatened to shoot her if she returned to the apartment. Plaintiff reported the incident to the police the next day and filed her domestic violence complaint.
At the conclusion of the trial, the trial judge granted plaintiff’s application for a FRO. The judge determined that a predicate act of domestic violence occurred and that that the plaintiff demonstrated an FRO was necessary for her protection from future acts of domestic violence. Plaintiff subsequently moved for counsel fees which the trial judge awarded her. The judge also granted that request, articulating that under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(b)(4), domestic violence victims “are entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees as a form of compensatory damages.” Defendant appealed.
On appeal, defendant contended that the trial judge denied him a full and fair hearing by failing to administer the oath to plaintiff prior to trial; conducting the hearing remotely; and failing to consider and properly weigh all relevant facts in rendering his decision. Defendant further argued that the judge improperly awarded counsel fees to plaintiff as well.
Ultimately, the Appellate Court of New Jersey was unconvinced by any of defendant’s arguments and affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The court determined that defendant was not denied due process simply because the trial court overlooked administering the oath to plaintiff. The court further stated that plaintiff was placed under oath during five previous attempts at holding the FRO hearing. Additionally, like the trial judge, the Appellate Court was satisfied the $5,197 counsel fee fee sought by plaintiff was reasonable and incurred directly from the domestic violence.
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.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of either party in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.