Physical Acts of Domestic Violence Are Not Needed to Prove “Domestic Violence” In New Jersey
Docket No. A-1058-21
Decided March 27, 2023
Submitted by New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division of New Jersey affirmed the entry of a Final Restraining Order (FRO) and attorney fee award against defendant after refusing to leave the plaintiff alone.
In C.H. v. R.J.O., plaintiff and defendant met in October 2015 and engaged in an exclusive five-year relationship. She testified defendant yelled at her on multiple occasions and made her feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Plaintiff explained they had “been fighting for a long time now and . . . he ha[d], on multiple occasions, screamed in [her] face. [H]e scream[ed] in [her] face to the point where [her] ears [rang].”
Plaintiff also testified defendant called her names like “stupid, bitch and the c-word.” Additionally, plaintiff stated defendant “grabbed [her] by the shirt sleeve and the wrist a few times.” Defendant threatened to “break items he [had] given her such as [an] iPad, phone, [and] computer by smashing them or put[ting] a hammer through them.”
While on a “break” from the relationship, plaintiff asked defendant to “just leave [her] alone for a little while.” According to plaintiff, defendant disregarded her statement and met plaintiff outside of her classroom. She told him “[she didn’t] want to talk.” As plaintiff walked through the building towards her car, defendant followed her with a “crazy look in his eyes.” Plaintiff testified after she entered her car, she tried to start her car while defendant attempted to open the car doors. Two female students came over to her car and told defendant to leave plaintiff alone; however, defendant did not leave the area.
During a conversation about their break up, defendant “threatened” to post sexually suggestive pictures of plaintiff and show up at her workplace the next day. After the conversation ended, defendant repeatedly called plaintiff’s cell phone and she blocked his number.
On another occasion, defendant followed plaintiff’s vehicle and tried to enter it at an intersection. Terrified, plaintiff reported it to the police.
Defendant testified and disputed plaintiff’s version of events.
The judge found plaintiff credible and that the acts of defendant constituted harassment. The judge concluded there was competent evidence in the record to warrant the issuance of an FRO. The judge found a history of domestic violence based on: “the credible testimony of the plaintiff”; “defendant call[ing] the plaintiff degrading or derogatory names”; “inappropriate physical grabbing on one occasion”; and the 2015 Sussex County College incident.
The judge found that although there were not physical acts of domestic violence, it was enough of a pattern of conduct to protect the plaintiff from defendant. The Judge also granted plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, requiring the defendant to pay.
Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division found no basis to overturn the judge’s decision, for the finding of harassment, the need for the FRO, and the assessment of attorney’s fees.
This case is important to understand that physical acts of domestic violence are not needed to prove “domestic violence” in New Jersey. Harassment is considered a predicate act of domestic violence and, if proven, could by itself be enough to warrant the issuance of an FRO. Most cases come down to credibility and an experienced attorney could help you bolster your credibility and diminish the other party’s credibility to give you the best chance of success.
What’s more, if an FRO is issued, the plaintiff is entitled to attorney’s fees. As long as the fees are deemed reasonable, the defendant will be required to reimburse the plaintiff for the full amount of attorney’s fees. Another reason to hire an attorney for both a plaintiff and defendant in a restraining order matter.
If you have a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or have questions or concerns regarding a Final Restraining Order (FRO) 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.
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.