No one should live in fear, or in harmful conditions, and domestic violence, whether physical, verbal or emotional can cause extreme stress that causes long term harm. Domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic lines, genders, religions and relationships.
My experience has shown that there are two types of victims of domestic violence, and the law treats each differently:
1. Category One - a person who is being physically, verbally and/or emotionally abused resulting in either physical or emotional injuries ;
2. Category Two - a person who is intentionally, wrongfully accused of domestic violence, who is required to endure the emotional and financial costs of defending themselves against a claim of domestic violence.
First, let me say that I refuse to represent anyone who abuses another person. In my practice, I’ve only represented victims of domestic violence, that fell into either of the two categories above.
Category One Victims
If you’re the victim of physical, verbal or emotional abuse, please protect yourself! I can tell you from years of experience handling these types of cases, the situation will not get better, if you don’t. Too may times I’ve heard people make excuses for the abuser: “he’/she is under stress”, “he/she only does it when____” , he/she really is a good person”, “I know he/she really loves me” “we have some really good times together”, “maybe it’s really my fault he/she acts that way”, “he/she promised to get help or change”, “I need his/her financial support”, etc…. The excuses for not filing a Domestic Violence Complaint, or for later dropping the Complaint are endless and irrelevant. There is no excuse for anyone harming another person, except in self-defense.
Further, allowing someone to commit an act of domestic violence against you, even once, empowers them, and allows them to think its okay. This results in the abuse escalating over time, from yelling and screaming, to destroying property, to threats, to throwing things, to a push, a slap and so on, eventually leading to severe injury or worse. You don’t deserve this, and your children don’t deserve to witness it
If you’re in any fear, I implore you to file a Domestic Violence Complaint, even upon the first act of domestic violence. You need to protect yourself and your children, if any. There is a alot of help available to you. You survived before this person and you’ll survive without them. But you may not survive with them.
Who is Covered/Protected?1. Both parties are 18 or over, or emancipated, and:-Married or in a Civil Union-Divorced-Current or Former Household Member2. Defendant is 18 or over, or emancipated, and-Unmarried, Co-parents, Expectant Parents, Had a Dating Relationship
What Constitutes Domestic Violence?
There are many types of domestic abuse, including:
- Physical Abuse
- Verbal Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Terroristic Threats
- Sexual Assault/Abuse
- Criminal Coercion or Restraint
- Criminal Mischief
- Criminal Trespass
- Any other crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury
1. If you think you or your children are in danger, leave the area, if you can;
a. Go to a police station, or call them from a friend’s, relative’s or a battered persons shelter;
b. If you cant leave, Call the police, or have someone call them for you;
c. Request a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order;
d. Make sure the Police, or someone, photograph all injuries.
2. If you truly don’t believe you’re in immediate danger, such as a continuation of a pattern of name calling, belittling, cursing, you don’t need to call the police, you can*:
a. Go to the Family Law Division of the County Courthouse right away and request a Temporary Restraining Order;
b. Bring as much proof as you can with you of the domestic violence.
*(Note: In any instance of domestic violence, I recommend the police be called)
COMPLETING THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COMPLAINT AND REQUEST FOR TRO
Usually whether you call the police or go to the courthouse, someone else takes your information and fills the form out for you, and then has you sign it.
-I know this is a stressful time, but always thoroughly read the Domestic Violence Complaint before your sign it! Here’s why:
1. In the section that asks what domestic violence you are currently reporting, make sure you give details, (e.g. other party hit you with a fist, open hand, threatened to kill you by_______, flattened your tires, etc…), and make sure you explain how it made you feel, pain, bruising, fear, anxious, etc… Also make sure all boxes are checked off that relate to any crime the abuser committed.
2. “Any prior history of domestic violence reported or unreported” On page one, there is a section entitled that asks this question. If there has been any prior acts of domestic violence, of any kind, first make sure the “yes” box is checked. Then make sure you list them all, as detailed as possible, with dates, or close approximations. Prior acts can be anything mentioned above, from harassment, criminal mischief (damaging you property), to an assault or worse. I know the space is small on the form, but ask for additional pages, if necessary. This is very important. When a judge is deciding if you need the protection of a Final Restraining Order, this is one of the things he’ll consider and, if you don’t list it on the form, he wont consider it at the hearing.
3. You can ask to be ale to return to your home, and the abuser excluded from he premises
4. If you need monetary support while waiting for the Final Restraining Order Hearing, you can request it at this time;
5. You can also request temporary custody of your children and ask to deny the abuser visitation.
If the Temporary Restraining Order is granted, the abuser will not be allowed to have any contact with you, directly, indirectly or through other people, and a hearing will be scheduled to determine if a Final (permanent) Restraining Order should be entered.
PREPARING FOR THE FINAL RESTRAINING ORDER HEARING
One a temporary restraining order is entered, the case is usually scheduled, within about ten days, for a hearing to determine if a Final Restraining Order should be entered. At his hearing, the judge can also decide other issues, such as who can reside at the premises, child support, spousal support, use of vehicles, child custody, psychiatric and/or substance abuse evaluations and treatment, visitation (parenting time), whether you’re entitled to any financial compensation and damages and also attorneys fees.
To prepare for your hearing, you should collect:
- all photographs, video and audio recordings, mail, letters, emails or texts messages that show any injuries, threats, damage to property, etc…;
-All social media content where the abuser may have admitted to the abuse, bragged about it or made any other incriminating statements;
-All medical records and bills for any injuries and treatment;
- Itemization of your monthly expenses
-Notify and subpoena all witnesses who may have to testify, friends, family, police officers
CATEGORY TWO VICTIMS
Unfortunately, the Domestic Violence laws that were enacted to protect people from various forms of violence and harm are used by some individuals to actually cause harm. These are victims who are intentionally and wrongfully accused of domestic violence and forced to endure the emotional and financial costs of defending themselves against a claim of domestic violence. Motives for these false claims include:
2. to gain an advantage in an underlying divorce or custody matter;
3. to cause financial, emotional stress;
4. a form of retaliation;
If a Domestic Violence Complaint is falsely filed against you, you must vigorously defend against it, since it can have a significant negative impact on your future, including:
- you’ll be placed in a Domestic Violence Registry, which could affect employment and future relationships, as well as child custody;
- you’ll be unable to own any firearms.
Therefore, it is not recommended that a person who has not committed an act of domestic violence, admit to one in court and allow a Final Restraining Order to be entered. If you win the case, an FRO is not entered and you can prove the other party filed the complaint in bad faith and frivolously, you may want to pursue a claim against them for Malicious Prosecution, Abuse of Process, Frivolous Litigation, or Domestic Violence for Harassment if they use it in that manner.
I hope this article was helpful; however, it was only designed to give a general overview of the Domestic Violence Process in New Jersey. Obviously it could not cover every issue or aspect of Domestic Violence. Therefore, if you’re facing a Domestic Violence Complaint, as either type of victim, or you feel one was entered improperly against you, it’s important that you speak to an experienced attorney to learn your rights.
All the Best,
Randy C. Redden