Final Restraining Order After Judge Found Plaintiff Credible of Defendant Perpetuating Physical Acts Against Plaintiff
Docket No. A-1397-19
Decided June 3, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division of New Jersey affirmed a trial court entry of a Final Restraining Order (FRO) after the trial judge found plaintiff credible of defendant perpetuating physical acts against plaintiff.
In E.K.M., the parties were involved in an extramarital affair that soured. A physical altercation prompted Elizabeth to seek relief; she alleged Todd “press[ed] his forehead hard against [her] face and forehead and [grabbed] both of her arms, jerk[ed] her body back and forth while spitting and screaming in her face.” At the conclusion of a plenary hearing, the judge rendered his factual findings. He determined Elizabeth was the more credible witness and concluded that Todd assaulted, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1, and harassed, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, her. Finding, also, a need to protect Elizabeth from future domestic violence, the judge entered a FRO.
After a three-day hearing at which both parties testified extensively, the trial judge found that Todd committed an assault by “grabb[ing Elizabeth] about the neck, . . . grabb[ing her] by the arm . . . shak[ing her],” and “h[o]ld[ing] [her] down.” He also found evidence that Todd intended to and did harass Elizabeth because she had “jilted” him.
Defendant appealed the entry of the FRO. The Appellate Division affirmed, deferring to the Judge’s credibility findings in favor of the plaintiff. The record supported the findings of assault and the fact that the restraining order was necessary for plaintiff’s protection.
The key takeaway in this case is a trial Court must make specific findings for domestic violence matters. First, they must make findings as to the statutory factors of each of the predicate acts alleged by the plaintiff. The Judge must also make explicit credibility findings when there are disputed facts. The judge must also rely on sufficient facts from the record to support legal conclusions as to grant or deny an FRO.
Remember, restraining order cases are all about credibility. Once credibility is determined, it is fairly simple to determine whether an FRO will be granted. Make sure you hire an experienced attorney for your domestic violence matter to bolster your credibility and get you the desired result.
At Hark & Hark, we help clients with prenups, divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony, adoptions and more.
In recognition of these trying financial times due to COVID-19, we are reducing fees and working with clients to come up with manageable payment plans. While we combat Coronavirus, we are offering special deals for first responders and individuals currently working in the medical field. Initial consultation is always free and we are available remotely.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing domestic violence charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties. We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Woodbridge, Lakewood, Toms River, Hamilton, Trenton, Clifton, Camden, Brick, Cherry Hill, Passaic, Middletown, Union City, Old Bridge, Gloucester Township, East Orange, Bayonne, Franklin Township, North Bergen, Vineland, and Union.