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Domestic Violence & Restraining Orders

restraining orderPeople get divorced for many reasons, and domestic violence is among the common reasons. Domestic violence is so pervasive because it takes many forms when abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, and financial. 

We’ve included more below about domestic violence offenses, resources to protect survivors, and the different ways partner abuse can affect the outcome of divorce. 

What Constitutes Domestic Violence in New Jersey?

Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse which may include intimidation, isolation, threats, and/or financial control. Without intervention, domestic violence typically increases in frequency and intensity over time. 

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status. It occurs among opposite- and same-sex partners who are living together, dating, separated, or married. 

Criminal offenses that may constitute domestic violence include: 

  • Assault 
  • Burglary 
  • Contempt 
  • Criminal Coercion 
  • Criminal Mischief 
  • Criminal Restraint 
  • Criminal Sexual Contact
  • Criminal Trespass 
  • Cyber-Harassment 
  • False Imprisonment 
  • Harassment 
  • Homicide 
  • Kidnapping 
  • Lewdness
  • Robbery
  • Sexual Assault 
  • Stalking
  • Terroristic Threats 

Who Are the Sufferers of Domestic Violence?

While the offenses listed above are criminal in nature, they are not always considered domestic violence crimes. 

New Jersey law considers an offense to be domestic violence when it is perpetrated against a person who is protected under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA.) A certain type of relationship must exist between the offender and the survivor for the offense to be considered domestic violence. 

Domestic violence survivors are persons who are either emancipated or 18 years of age or older who are subjected to violence of any kind by a current or former spouse, or past or present household member. 

Furthermore, someone of any age or sex can be a survivor of domestic violence perpetrated by a person with whom they:

  • Are dating or have dated in the past
  • Have a child in common 
  • Anticipate having a child with (or are currently pregnant)

Help for Domestic Violence Survivors

If you are experiencing domestic violence from a current or former partner, help is available around the clock at the following resources: 

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE / https://www.thehotline.org
  • New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline (Womanspace Inc.) 24 Hour Hotline: 1-800-572-SAFE / TY: 1-888-252-7233 
  • New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence: 609-584-8107 / TTY: 609-584-0027 / njcbw.org

Advocates with these agencies can help create a personalized safety plan, point you in the direction of additional assistance, or just offer support and a listening ear if you are feeling alone or frightened. 

What Legal Remedies Are Available to Survivors of Domestic Violence?

Beyond the emotional support and practical resources offered by the agencies listed above, you also have legal remedies to protect you and your children as well as punish the abuser. 

You have the right under New Jersey law to file a civil complaint under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. You can also file a criminal complaint to hold the perpetrator accountable for a criminal offense. 

What is a Temporary Restraining Order?

If you feel you are in danger and need your abuser to stay away, you can seek a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO.) A TRO is an important form of protection designed to end and prevent contact between the abuser and their survivor. If the judge finds that circumstances warrant a TRO, they will grant it with one or more of the following conditions: 

  • The survivor receives temporary custody of the children. 
  • The survivor receives exclusive possession of the family residence. 
  • The abuser is prohibited from future acts of domestic violence. 
  • The abuser is prohibited from possessing a firearm and other weapons. 
  • The abuser is prohibited from having any contact with the survivor and their relatives in person, on the phone, or in writing. 
  • The abuser is prohibited from returning to the location of the domestic violence incident(s). 

How Do I Get a Temporary Restraining Order?

To obtain a TRO, contact the family division of Superior Court in the county where you reside Monday through Friday. In the evenings, weekends, or holidays, contact your local police department to obtain a TRO through your local Municipal Court. 

Once a TRO is issued, a hearing is scheduled with ten days. You and your abuser both have the right to testify at this hearing. The judge reviews your testimony before deciding whether or not to issue a Final Restraining Order (FRO.) 

For the judge to issue a FRO, they must find that (1) the parties relationship meets the criteria of a qualified domestic relationship (2) the defendant committed an act of domestic violence as defined under the law and (3) there is an urgent need for restraints to prevent further acts of domestic violence. The FRO remains in effect indefinitely unless it is dissolved by the Court. 

My Ex Has Accused Me of Domestic Violence. What Should I Do?

While every survivor should be believed when they accuse another individual of domestic violence, it is also true that in this country, everyone is entitled to due process under the law. 

It is an unfortunate reality that divorced spouses have been known to falsely accuse their ex of physical, mental, or sexual abuse in an effort to skew divorce proceedings in their favor. This is true more often when children are involved. Unfounded domestic violence accusations can have a significant impact on a person’s right to child custody, visitation, and their personal and professional reputations. If you have been wrongly accused of a crime that falls under the PDVA, choose a domestic violence attorney who will build a strong defense and vigorously defend your rights. 

How Domestic Violence Impacts Divorce

Any act of domestic violence or abuse has an undeniable impact on the survivor’s health and well-being. That is why the courts take allegations of domestic violence so seriously. 

How Domestic Violence Impacts Child Custody

In the context of divorce, domestic violence has the most impact on child custody. A spouse who demonstrates a consistent pattern of abuse is less likely to get custody. For extreme acts of physical, sexual, or emotional violence, the judge may go a step further and prohibit visitation with the children altogether. 

The courts can also require supervised visitation, prohibit overnight visits, or require that visits happen in a public place. Even if the child is not the direct target of abuse, exposure to domestic violence in the home will play a part in custody proceedings.

All custody matters in New Jersey and across the nation are determined based on what is best for the child. The goal is to ensure every child grows up in a safe and nurturing environment, free from abuse. 

How Domestic Violence Impacts Alimony

When domestic violence involves financial abuses like controlling family assets, lying about paying bills, or confiscating a partner’s paycheck or other income, the survivor of that abuse is likely to receive a larger amount of alimony. 

How Domestic Violence Impacts Marital Assets

Domestic violence may also play a part in the division of marital assets. For example, if one spouse prevented the other from working and earning income through threats, intimidation, or physical violence, the survivor may be awarded a larger share of the community property. 

The Importance of Documenting Domestic Violence

Whether you are newly-married or currently formulating a plan to leave your abusive spouse, it is incredibly important to document every episode of physical, mental, sexual, or financial abuse. 

Photos, texts, emails, recordings, and other evidence you can collect of occurrences of domestic violence can help you obtain a restraining order, as well as impact the course of your divorce. Keep copies of evidence in a safe place where your spouse will not look, and share copies with your attorney. 

Burlington County Divorce Lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A., Advocate for Domestic Violence Survivors Going Through Divorce 

If you are a survivor of intimate partner violence, please know that help is available. Domestic violence hotlines are accessible around the clock for immediate assistance. Our Burlington County divorce lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A., use their experience to provide legal protection from an abuser and ensure the courts are aware of domestic violence in the home. Call 856-890-9400 or contact us online to learn more about our team or to schedule a case review. Located in Marlton, we work with clients throughout South Jersey, Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and across the state of New Jersey.