J.T. v. A.S.A.

Docket No. A-1860-22

A.S.A. v. J.T.

Docket No. A-2152-22

Decided March 28, 2024

Submitted by New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division of New Jersey affirmed the dismissal of cross restraining orders without considering any evidence of a past history of domestic violence from either party.

In J.T. v. A.S.A., Jane and Art married in December 2017. The parties have one child, D.A. (Dan), born in 2019. The parties filed for divorce in 2020. One of the hotly contested issues in the divorce action involved custody of Dan. The Family Part judge handling the divorce action issued an order granting Art parenting time “in his hotel suite . . . when [Art] is in New Jersey,” with parenting time exchanges to occur at Art’s hotel in Somerset. At the time of the domestic violence trial, there had been approximately fifty days of trial testimony in the divorce action.

On January 17, 2023, Jane filed for a TRO against Art alleging the predicate act of harassment. In her domestic violence complaint, Jane stated she arrived at Art’s hotel with her father (Grandfather) on January 17 for the scheduled parenting time exchange. According to Jane, she “briefly put [Dan] down[,] who then walked to . . . [G]randfather to be held.” Jane claimed Art “became angry and . . . began shoving” her and Grandfather in an “attempt[] to take [Dan].” Jane explained she “attempted to grab [Dan] from [Grandfather] and was again shoved by [Art].” In the portion of the TRO application stating the prior history of domestic violence, Jane claimed Art yelled and cursed at her during a prior parenting time exchange on January 12, 2023.

Several days later, Jane amended her domestic violence complaint to include the following prior history of domestic violence: Art threw Jane’s “items” on the floor on July 7, 2018; Art threatened to kill himself on July 8, 2018 “if [Jane] didn’t do what he said”; Art threw a bowl of mangoes at Jane in October 2018; Art pushed Jane on May 18, 2019; Art “stood outside of [Jane’s] car” and shouted on June 4, 2020; Art “stood in front of [Jane’s] car” and cursed at her on December 27, 2020; and Art “repeatedly cursed at [Jane] . . . in front of [Dan] during their [parenting time] exchange” on December 11, 2023. Jane also asserted: Art “regularly call[ed] [her] names in front of [Dan]”; told Dan to “kick” her, “throw things at” her, and “hit” her; and “refer[red] to [her with] sexually abusive language” and “antagonize[d] [her] about their sex life in front of [Dan].”

On January 30, 2023, Art filed for a TRO against Jane, alleging the predicate act of harassment. In his domestic violence complaint, Art explained that immediately after the January 17 custody exchange, Dan walked to the elevator in Art’s hotel and cried out for Art. Art stated he “approached [Dan] to console him” and Jane got between Art and Dan and “shoved [Art] with her shoulder, causing [Art] to fall on [the] floor.” In his domestic violence complaint, Art also provided a prior history of domestic violence. The prior incidents related to Jane involved yelling, cursing, and name calling. Art also described prior incidents between himself and members of Jane’s family—specifically, Grandfather.

On February 8, 2023, the Family Part judge held a one-day trial on the parties’ applications for the entry of final restraining orders (FROs). Because he was in California, Art participated virtually. Both parties testified as to the events of January 17.  There was also surveillance video submitted that depicted Art and Jane’s father getting into a physical altercation at a parenting exchange with Jane stepping in between.

The Court found this video to be unbiased and unaltered evidence of what occurred and neither party was able to prove a predicate act of domestic violence based on the video and the different testimony related to same.  The Court declined to go into prior history of domestic violence on either case and dismissed both Temporary Restraining Orders.

Both parties appealed and the Appellate Division found that although it was an error for the trial court to not consider prior history of domestic violence, because neither party objected to the Judge doing this ahead of time, it was reviewed under “plain error” and was affirmed.

Final restraining orders have severe consequences in New Jersey.  In order to have a Temporary Restraining Order converted to a Final Restraining Order, the plaintiff must show the parties have a requisite relationship under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the defendant perpetuated a predicate act of domestic violence, and the restraining order is necessary to the plaintiff to prevent future predicate acts of domestic violence by defendant.  If any one of these three things is not proven by plaintiff by a preponderance of the evidence, the restraining order will be dismissed.

If you have questions about final restraining orders, temporary restraining orders, parenting time, alimony, child support, divorce, custody, or appeals, contact the experienced domestic violence attorneys at Hark & Hark today.

In recognition of these trying financial times, we are reducing fees and working with clients to come up with manageable payment plans. Initial consultation is always free and we are available remotely.

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 including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties. We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, 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.

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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