FRO Granted for the Plaintiff, As There Were Multiple Predicate Acts of Domestic Violence
Docket No. A-0105-21
Decided October 6, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal of a final restraining order (“FRO”) entered against her and in favor of the plaintiff based on the predicate acts of harassment, assault, and terroristic threats.
The parties in this case are unrelated and only resided together for five weeks in a rooming house where defendant was employed as the property manager. Plaintiff lived in a room on the third floor and defendant occupied the whole first floor and had her own bathroom. Plaintiff testified the parties shares a common space, which included the kitchen, common room, and two bathrooms. However, defendant stated that she lives separate from the floor in an apartment with her fiancé. She also claimed that she doesn’t share any of her apartment, kitchen, stove, or bathroom with the other tenants.
After only residing in the rooming house for five weeks, plaintiff was forced to move out due to defendant’s harassing and discriminating behavior towards her. Plaintiff alleged that defendant made homophobic slurs towards her and threatened to cause her physical harm. Defendant also harassed the plaintiff’s boyfriend, which she stated contributed to the end of their relationship. Plaintiff filed a domestic violence complaint and sought a temporary restraining order (“TRO”), which was granted the same day.
At the conclusion of the FRO hearing, the trial judge ultimately granted the FRO for the plaintiff, as they had the requisite relationship under the Act as former household members in a rooming house and there were multiple predicate acts of domestic violence. The trial judge noted that the plaintiff experienced multiple incidents of harassment in the past at the rooming house, that defendant caused injury to right wrist when she pulled her out her front door, and that defendant made terroristic threats against plaintiff when she threatened to hurt her. The trial judge also found the plaintiff more credible than the defendant.
On appeal, defendant contended that the parties did not have a qualifying relationship under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, and the trial judge lacked jurisdiction to issue the FRO. However, defendant did not challenge the trial judge’s findings on the predicate acts of harassment, assault, and terroristic threats.
Courts have applied the six-factor test enunciated in Coleman v. Romano, 388 N.J. Super. 342, 351 (Ch. Div. 2006) when determining whether a party is considered a “former household member” pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. According to Coleman, “the focus is ‘whether the parties have been so entangled, emotionally or physically—or they will be in the future—that the court should invoke the Act to protect the plaintiff and prevent further violence.’” Id. In 2015, the definition of “former household member” was changed to “any other person who is a present household member or was at any time a household member.”
The Appellate Court of New Jersey was unconvinced by defendant’s argument and affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The Appellate Court opined that the Act’s reference to “household member” had a broad definition and noting that prior cases had also held that two residents of a boarding house qualified as household members due to the sharing of kitchens and bathrooms where residents were likely to interact.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to FRO hearings. 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.
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