Judge Determined She Needed a Final Restraining Order (“FRO”) to Protect Her from Future Harm Due to The Parties Prior Domestic Violence History
Docket No. A-0070-21
Decided October 26, 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In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal of a final restraining order (“FRO”) entered against him and in favor of the plaintiff, his daughter, based on the predicate act of simple assault.
On June 1, 2021, plaintiff and defendant were playing pool in the family’s rental home they shared with other members of their family while vacationing in California. They had been drinking all day and were arguing about plaintiff’s relationship with her paternal aunts. Plaintiff went on to testify at the FRO hearing that defendant was extremely angry and yelled out of nowhere that he was raped by his father. Plaintiff proceeded to record their conversation with the cellphone being hidden in her pocket. Defense counsel objected to the introduction of the video, but it was eventually admitted into evidence and played in court. The recording wasn’t clear visually, but the audio captured the conversation.
On June 5, 2021 plaintiff returned to New Jersey from California and filed her domestic violence complaint alleging defendant assaulted her four days prior in California. Defendant subsequently filed a cross complaint asserting plaintiff assaulted and harassed him during the same incident and damaged his home on multiple occasions.
The plaintiff told the trial judge she needed an FRO because she was deeply afraid of the defendant and what he could do to her. She also explained that she has nightmares about defendant killing her and has trouble sleeping. Plaintiff also testified about past instances of domestic violence between the parties, establishing a pattern of conduct since she was five years old in 2002. However, on cross-examination plaintiff did concede she had no photographs depicting any injuries causes by the defendant. At the time of the FRO hearing, the parties resided about a one-minute walk from each other.
Defendant called his other daughter, Jayne, and a family friend, Donald, to testify on his behalf as witnesses to the June 1, 2021 event. They each indicated that they saw the plaintiff after the incident but didn’t notice any signs of injury. Jayne testified plaintiff held a grudge against defendant. Donald claimed plaintiff went “off her meds” the day before the incident. Defendant stated he sought an FRO because he was afraid of plaintiff to an extent because “she was on a mission to destroy him for some reason.”
After the trial concluded, the trial judge found plaintiff proved the predicate act of assault. The trial judge also determined she needed an FRO to protect her from future harm due to the parties prior domestic violence history. Defendant appealed.
On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court erred by applying New Jersey law when deciding the admissibility of the recording because it was made when both parties were in California, and therefore improperly admitted into evidence. The Appellate Court disagreed and reasoned the recording was admissible because the recording was made by a private citizen and admitted into evidence during a Family Part proceeding to support an application for an FRO. Thus, the Appellate Court concluded that plaintiff’s recording consistent with the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act’s objectives and jurisdictional authorization, and the trial court’s decision was affirmed.
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 trials. 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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