Domestic Violence

New Jersey defines domestic violence as the commission of one or more of the following criminal offenses, when committed by an adult or emancipated minor against a person who falls within the state’s definition of a domestic violence victim:

  • homicide
  • assault
  • terroristic threats
  • kidnapping
  • criminal restraint
  • false imprisonment
  • sexual assault
  • criminal sexual contact
  • lewdness
  • criminal mischief
  • criminal trespass
  • harassment
  • stalking

An emancipated minor is a person who is under 18 years of age but who has been married, has entered military service, has had a child or is pregnant, or has been declared by a court or administrative agency to be emancipated. New Jersey’s definition of domestic violence does not include instances where any of the above criminal offenses are committed by an unemancipated minor; however, such instances may serve as the basis for a court-issued restraining order.

Domestic Violence Victims

To meet New Jersey’s definition of domestic violence, one of the above criminal offenses must be committed by an adult or emancipated minor against a person who is:

  • a current or former spouse who is 18 or older or is an emancipated minor
  • a current or former household member who is 18 or older or is an emancipated minor
  • a person with whom the perpetrator has a child or is expecting a child, regardless of the victim’s age, or
  • a person with whom the perpetrator has had a dating relationship

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

A victim of domestic violence may file a complaint seeking protection from the offender. A court may grant an ex parte domestic violence restraining order where it determines the order is necessary to protect the victim’s life, health, or well-being. (An ex parte order is one issued without the other side being present.) The judge may grant the ex parte order based on sworn testimony or based upon the applicant’s complaint; under emergency circumstances, the ex parte order may be granted when even the applicant is not present. The defendant is not required to be notified prior the issuance of an ex parte domestic violence restraining order.

An emergency order can include but is not limited to provisions that:

  • prohibit the defendant from returning to the scene of the domestic violence
  • require the search for and seizure of weapons from any place where the judge has reason to believe a weapon is located
  • bar the defendant from possessing a firearm or other deadly weapon specified under law, and
  • award possession of an animal held by either party or a minor child

Upon the court granting an ex parte order, law enforcement serves the defendant with a copy of the order. A full hearing with the plaintiff and the defendant is held within ten days of the filing of the complaint seeking the restraining order. If the court determines that the plaintiff proved the allegations in the complaint, it may issue an order containing provisions that:

  • prohibit the defendant from abusing the victim
  • grant exclusive possession of the residence to the plaintiff
  • provide for temporary child custody and parenting time
  • require the defendant to compensate the plaintiff for losses caused by the defendant
  • require the defendant to receive counseling or a psychiatric evaluation
  • prohibit the defendant from entering the plaintiff’s residence, workplace, or school
  • prohibit the defendant from contacting the plaintiff
  • require the defendant to pay the rent or mortgage on the plaintiff’s residence
  • provide for the temporary possession of specified property
  • and prohibit the defendant from possessing a firearm

If the judge determines at the conclusion of the hearing that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence, the judge must order the defendant to pay a civil penalty of at least $50 but no more than $500. The judge must assess this penalty unless doing so would cause the defendant extreme financial hardship

An allegation of domestic violence can result in the filing of criminal charges, the filing of a petition for a domestic violence restraining order, or both. A conviction for a domestic violence offense can carry severe consequences, including time in prison, and the issuance of a restraining order can result in limits on your freedom of movement and rights as a parent and property owner. If you are accused of domestic violence, you should speak with an attorney from our office right away.

CALL US TODAY FOR A CONSULTATION WITH OUR EXPERIENCED ATTORNEYS and we will provide valuable guidance throughout the pendency of your case while protecting your fundamental rights.

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