Final Restraining Order (FRO) Affirmed Against Defendant After the Court Found Defendant Threatened to Burn Down Plaintiff’s House
Docket No. 0810-20
Decided March 30, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division of New Jersey affirmed a trial court’s entry of a Final Restraining Order (FRO) against defendant after the Court found defendant threatened to burn down plaintiff’s house.
In Z.A.S.C., the facts were developed at a three-day trial held in September and October 2020. Both parties were represented by legal counsel and testified at trial. Plaintiff also called her father as a witness and defendant called his mother. The parties married in 2015 and have two children. In August 2019, plaintiff filed for divorce, but the parties continued to live together until August 2020.
On July 29, 2020, the parties got into an argument about their pending divorce as defendant was packing for a trip to Jamaica. That same day, defendant filed a harassment complaint against plaintiff, claiming she had threatened him. Defendant elected not to seek a restraining order against plaintiff, and he told the police he had filed the complaint because he wanted to document the incident. Two days later, defendant left for Jamaica and returned on August 10, 2020.
On August 13, 2020, plaintiff sought and obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) against defendant, alleging that he had threatened her during the argument on July 29, 2020. Thereafter, plaintiff amended her complaint, contending that defendant had harassed her after the TRO had been issued.
At trial, plaintiff testified that during the argument on July 29, 2020, defendant called her offensive names and told her she would not get anything out of the divorce because he would burn the marital home and their vehicles and leave the children homeless. Defendant also told plaintiff: “[I]t only takes one phone call to make . . . something happen to you.” When asked what she thought defendant had meant by that statement, plaintiff stated that she believed defendant would call somebody who might harm or kill her. She explained that defendant had made that statement to her before. She also stated that defendant kept a gun in a safe in their home and, during prior incidents, he had moved towards the safe as if he was going to pull out the gun.
Defendant denied the threats and claimed that it was actually plaintiff that threatened him. The Court entered an FRO against defendant after finding plaintiff’s testimony credible. Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed the entry of the FRO on the grounds of harassment and terroristic threats.
The case is important to understand the requirements a Court must find to enter a Final Restraining Order (FRO) against a defendant. The Court must find the parties have a relationship that is encompassed by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, that a predicate act of domestic violence occurred, and that the restraining order is necessary for the plaintiff’s protection. When there are two opposing stories between the parties, the Judge assesses the parties’ credibility and determines who, if anyone is telling the truth. Based on those findings, the Judge can then asses the legal question as to whether to enter an FRO.
If you have a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against someone else or against yourself, contact the experienced attorneys at Hark & Hark today. At Hark & Hark, we help clients with prenups, divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony, adoptions and more.
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