Final Restraining Order (FRO) Upheld for Preventing Plaintiff from Leaving Defendant’s Home
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
Docket No. A-2263-20
Decided June 2, 2022
In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division of New Jersey upheld a trial court’s entry of a Final Restraining Order (FRO) for preventing plaintiff from leaving defendant’s home, following her and threatening her family, and violating the restraining order afterwards, despite defendant having a different version of events.
In K.M.J., the parties had been in a dating relationship for approximately two years. The incident that gave rise to the request for a restraining order occurred on December 18, 2019, when plaintiff was nineteen years old, and defendant was eighteen years old.
Plaintiff testified that she had gone over to defendant’s home and while there took a final examination for a course she was taking. While at defendant’s home, she learned that her mother and her mother’s boyfriend were on their way over to pick her up to bring her home because there was an ice storm. When plaintiff informed defendant that she was leaving, defendant physically prevented her from leaving and he blocked and locked the door to his bedroom. Plaintiff was able to get out of defendant’s bedroom and she went outside where her mother and her mother’s boyfriend were waiting in a car.
According to plaintiff, defendant also came outside, reached through the car window, and grabbed her mother and then threatened to hurt and kill both her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. Defendant also grabbed plaintiff and tried to pull her out of the vehicle. Plaintiff was able to free herself and she, her mother, and her mother’s boyfriend drove away to her mother’s home
When they arrived at the mother’s home, defendant was waiting there and confronted plaintiff and her mother. Defendant yelled at plaintiff and again threatened to harm the mother’s boyfriend. Plaintiff’s mother then called the police and defendant left before the police arrived
The next day, plaintiff applied for and obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) against defendant. Plaintiff went on to testify that on December 28, 2019, while the TRO was in effect, defendant came to her place of employment when she was there and tried to speak to her. When she avoided defendant, he gave her manager letters and two rings to give to her. Plaintiff’s mother’s testimony largely corroborated and was consistent with plaintiff’s testimony.
Defendant denied preventing plaintiff from leaving his home and denied threatening her mother’s boyfriend. He did, however, admit to the violation of the restraining order.
The Court did not find defendant credible and entered a Final Restraining Order (FRO) against him. Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division upheld the determination, finding that the Court’s factual conclusions were supported by the substantial credible evidence and the legal conclusions of the predicate acts of harassment, the violation, and the need for the FRO were correct.
This opinion is important to understand the trial court’s role and the effect on appeal. The trial court must make credibility findings when faced with competing factual recitations – something that happens in most temporary restraining order cases. Once the court makes credibility and factual findings, then the Court makes legal conclusions. On appeal, credibility determinations can hardly ever be overturned unless they are not supported by the record. The legal conclusions, however, are reviewed “de novo”, meaning the trial court is given no deference for these conclusions.
It is vital to do everything you can to prepare for the case at the trial court level because if you are unsuccessful, an appeal may not work if credibility findings were against you. If you have a 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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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 At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Gloucester County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County , and Salem 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.