Texting Alone Creates A Dating Relationship in Domestic Violence

C.C. v. J.A.H

Docket No. A-4425-18T3

Decided May 4, 2020

Submitted by New Jersey Domestic Violence Law Firm, Hark and Hark.

In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division considered whether in-person contact that only occurred at the gym, 1300 text messages, and no dates, holding hands, or sexual contact between the parties constituted a “dating relationship” for the purposes of Domestic Violence.

In C.C., the parties met at a gym, where plaintiff worked and defendant was a member.  As they began to associate, they exchanged phone numbers.  Over the period of several months, the parties exchanged approximately 1,300 text messages, many of which were intimate and sexually explicit.  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.

As time passed, defendant began to express feelings and plaintiff did not feel the same way.  When plaintiff tried to cease texting defendant, plaintiff was barraged with disparaging and inappropriate text messages from defendant.  Once this occurred, plaintiff searched defendant online to find defendant had been found guilty of stalking another woman prior.  Plaintiff sought a restraining order on the basis of harassment after someone hacked in defendant’s account at the gym and changed the address to plaintiff’s.

One of the requirements of Domestic Violence is that the parties need a “dating relationship” for the text messages to constitute harassment.  Although this relationship was almost solely over text messages, the trial judge found that the unique circumstances and intimacy of the text messages was enough for a dating relationship under the Domestic Violence statute.

Defendant appealed the ruling after plaintiff was granted a final restraining order (FRO). The Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s ruling, finding that the judge was in accordance with the Domestic Violence statute by finding that the 1,300 text messages was enough to prove a dating relationship.  The length of time the messages were exchanged, the intimacy both parties shared for each other, and plaintiff’s description that she believed the parties had a relationship over text messages were all factors supporting the court’s decision.

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!

At Hark & Hark, we help clients with divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony issues and more.  In recognition of these trying financial times due to COVID-19, we are reducing fees and working with clients to come up with manageable payment plans. While we combat Coronavirus, we are offering special deals for first responders and individuals currently working in the medical field.  Initial consultation is always free and we are available remotely.

Stay safe

Michael J. Collis, Esquire

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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