To Issue A FRO, Court Must First Find a Predicate Act of Domestic Violence Has Occurred, and a Restraining Order That Provides Protection in The Future
Docket No. A-0074-21
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In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal of a final restraining order (“FRO”) entered against him and in favor of the plaintiff based on the predicate act of harassment.
The parties met on an internet website and had been in a dating relationship for a little over one year. They were never married and did not have any children together. For most of their time together, the parties lived in plaintiff’s apartment with her adult son. Plaintiff also lived with defendant in his apartment for two months. Plaintiff alleged defendant called her to meet and sign some papers three months after their breakup and threatened her to do so. One day she thought she saw his car parked behind hers and called police who found he was not in the area.
The same day, plaintiff filed a domestic violence complaint and requested a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) against the defendant alleging the facts discussed above. Plaintiff also alleged that defendant had previously ripped up her underwear and nightgowns with a knife and threatened to harm her. She also asserted he grabbed her phone and threw it and filed a frivolous civil suit against her for compensation for a gift he gave her.
In order for a court to issue a FRO the court must first find first that the plaintiff has proven, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that a predicate act of domestic violence has occurred, and second, whether the court should enter a restraining order that provides protection for the victim from immediate danger or to prevent further abuse in the future.
The trial court found that defendant had committed the predicate act of harassment when he repeatedly called the plaintiff and texted plaintiff’s niece a picture of him kissing another woman was done with the sole purpose of harassing the plaintiff. The trial court also found that there was a need for the plaintiff to obtain an FRO because according to the trial judge, there was a likelihood of defendant’s actions reoccurring in the future.
Defendant argued on appeal that the trial judge erred in finding his filing of a civil lawsuit to collect a debt allegedly owed to him by plaintiff during the pendency of the domestic violence proceedings was frivolous and filed with a purpose to harass plaintiff.
The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s determination that the defendant committed the predicate act of harassment because it was supported by substantial credible evidence. However, the court ultimately vacated the FRO and remanded the matter for the trial judge to provide a more comprehensive statement of its findings of fact and conclusions of law as to whether the plaintiff needs an FRO for her protection in the future under the second prong of Silver. The Appellate Court reasoned that in deciding the matter and addressing the need for a restraining order to protect the parties, the trial judge did not include any specific evidence of his consideration of the statutory factors under Silver before reaching his conclusion. Rather, the judge expressed concern that the civil action filed by defendant was frivolous without making a specific finding and then he implicitly found an FRO was necessary. The judge also concluded defendant’s repeated phone calls and messages warranted issuance of an FRO without making the requisite findings of fact and conclusions of law.
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.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of either party in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town 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.
Leave a Comment