Final Restraining Orders Even Easier to Obtain In Modern New Jersey
June 2, 2020
|C.C. v. J.A.H.
Docket No. A-4425-18T3
Decided May 4, 2020
|P.E.O. v. R.J.
Docket No. A-5354-18T1
Decided May 11, 2020
|N.D. v. E.L.H.
Docket No. A-3849-18T2
Decided May 11, 2020
|S.C. v. J.D.
Docket No. FV-13-1110-19
Decided March 21, 2019
Approved for publication May 7, 2020
Submitted by New Jersey Domestic Violence Firm, Hark and Hark.
Recent decisions by the Appellate Division and Trial Courts have shown a trend towards favoring plaintiffs/victims when it comes to Final Restraining Orders (FRO).
In C.C., the FRO was upheld on appeal even though the relationship between the parties was only through text messages. The parties never went on a date, never had sexual contact, never held hands, and never introduced each other to friends. The only contact the parties had with each other was when they would see each other at the gym. When plaintiff tried to cease texting defendant, plaintiff was barraged with disparaging and inappropriate text messages from defendant. The Appellate Division upheld the FRO issued by the trial court although the parties never had a typical “dating” relationship, as required by the Domestic Violence statute.
In P.E.O., the defendant was a black belt in martial arts and a kickboxing instructor. After plaintiff posted an inappropriate post on Instagram, defendant cornered plaintiff and allegedly punched her in the face and prevented her from leaving the room for 30 seconds. The trial court dismissed the TRO and denied plaintiff’s FRO application because the parties lacked a prior history of domestic violence. Although a prior history of domestic violence is a key component to the court’s analysis as to whether a restraining order is necessary, the Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s decision and ruled that prior history of domestic violence is not always necessary for implementation of an FRO.
In N.D., defendant arrived at plaintiff’s door unannounced after plaintiff ended their dating relationship. Defendant became upset after seeing another man in the window and forced his way in the house. Plaintiff attempted to push him out, but defendant fought his way back inside two more times. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision to grant plaintiff’s FRO although the parties had no history of domestic violence. The court ruled that the predicate act of breaking into the home was egregious enough to warrant the FRO.
In S.C., plaintiff and defendant were half-siblings in their 30s, but spent significant amounts of family time while they were younger. They shared fathers, but had different mothers. While they did not live together the majority of the time, the defendant spent substantial periods of time at plaintiff’s home when they were younger. The Trial Court in its published opinion ruled Defendant was considered a “household member” because of this time together. This also meant that an individual in defendant’s situation could have two “households” under New Jersey’s Domestic Violence statute, expanding the meaning to blanket protection to potential victims of domestic violence.
It has become clear with these four recent decisions that the Appellate Division and Trial Courts are erring on the side of caution, and expanding the Domestic Violence statute to fit more plaintiffs’ situations. As time passes and relationships evolve, the courts are adapting to situations that were not anticipated at the time the Domestic Violence statute was implemented. In response, courts are more willing than ever to granted an FRO where they feel its necessary, even without a history of domestic violence or a typical “dating” relationship.
If you are a victim or have been accused of harassment, stalking, assault, or something similar while in a dating relationship, contact Hark & Hark immediately. Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO) and Final Restraining Orders (FRO) are serious matters and can have significant consequences. Hearings are also scheduled very quickly, as these matters are considered emergent. There is often little time to act. Call now!
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Michael J. Collis, Esquire