Final Restraining Order Dismissed; Civil Restraints Under the Parties’ Previous Consent Order Continued
Docket No. A-0650-21
Decided October 20, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided plaintiff’s appeal of an order denying her application for a final restraining order (“FRO”), dismissing her domestic violence complaint, and dissolving her temporary restraining order (“TRO”) against her former domestic partner, defendant. The trial judge instead continued the civil restraints under the parties’ previous consent order.
The parties in this matter were never married but had three children together. Plaintiff had two older children from a previous marriage as well. In 2018, the Division of Child Protection & Permanency filed an abuse and neglect action against defendant following allegations that he had sexually abused the plaintiff’s oldest child. Plaintiff’s TRO was dissolved in October 2018 when the parties executed a civil consent order that imposed civil restraints and addressed the defendant’s parenting time.
As the abuse and neglect litigation was pending, plaintiff moved for enforcement of the civil restraints. In February 2019, a Family Part judge found defendant sexually abused, verbally abused, emotionally abused, and physically abused plaintiff’s oldest child. That same day, the judge continued mutual restraints, prohibiting both parties from engaging in disparaging or inflammatory communication utilizing social media, or disparaging the other parent in the presence of the children. The judge ordered contact between the parties may only be through the My Family Wizard application as well. One month later, plaintiff filed a motion to enforce the civil restraints, but later withdrew her application in exchange for the parties to stop using My Family Wizard and keep the restraints in place. Defendant sent plaintiff multiple text messages in June 2020 demanding payment for his unreturned engagement ring and sent more text messages in August and September 2020 using very vulgar and offensive language.
Plaintiff filed a domestic violence complaint in September 2021 alleging defendant committed the predicate act of harassment by sending her multiple messages through the court-authorized parenting application, direct messages, and phone calls, in violation of the October 29, 2018 consent order. Plaintiff also alleged a history of similar harassing communications during the previous three years. The trial judge ultimately dismissed plaintiff’s complaint and dissolved the TRO despite citing no statutory authority or caselaw to support his decision. Plaintiff subsequently appealed.
On appeal, the Appellate court noted that it did not appear that the trial judge considered plaintiff’s documentary evidence, which was approximately 200 pages long and that he did not afford the parties the opportunity to make closing statements. Additionally, the Appellate court stated that since the trial judge did not identify any evidence by exhibit number, they could not be certain the judge considered the evidence. Furthermore, the trial judge did not correlate his factual findings with any citation to, or analysis of, the governing law. Accordingly, the Appellate Court was unable to review whether the judge’s findings were supported by adequate, substantial, credible evidence. Consequently, the trial court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s domestic violence complaint was vacated, the TRO was reinstated, and the matter was remanded for a new trial before a different judge.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to appealing an order denying the issuance of a FRO. 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.