Perhaps it's the meaning people associate with “final”, but the idea of issuing a final restraining order against someone seems like a rather extreme legal action. In fact, many people still believe that restraining orders are generally for victims who have well-established relationships, such as a marriage or long-term cohabitation, with their abusers. However, New Jersey's progressive domestic violence laws extend to many types of victims, even ones who have only known their abuser for a very short time. In fact, the Appellate Division ruled that a “dating relationship” was not contingent upon the length of time or a limited set of circumstances in the 2009 decision of J.S. v. J.F. In this case, the defendant fought the plaintiff's motion for a restraining order because she was a paid escort, hence their relationship was “professional”, as opposed to intimate.
The Appellate Division advised that based on the circumstances of their encounters, the fact that she had been paid for her company did not prohibit her from applying for a restraining order. Overall, the court favored a broad definition of “dating relationship” in order to give victims as much relief as possible under the state's domestic violence statutes. Furthermore, the incident is tantamount to the nature of the relationship, since qualifying incidents are directly listed in the statute. Both factors must be given equal weight in deciding whether or not to issue a final restraining order – a point that was stressed by the Appellate Division in the 2016 decision for A.M.C v. P.B.
In A.M.C., the trial court ruled that an FRO was not necessary because the plaintiff and defendant were living apart, the defendant had not contacted her since she left the marital home, and because the parties had a very short-term marriage with no children. The appeals court ruled that the trial court had no “rational basis” for relying on things like the length of the marriage, when the plaintiff had proof that the defendant had assaulted her when she tried to leave the marital home. In addition, he had assaulted her three weeks prior to that incident, which means there were two clear acts of domestic violence perpetrated by the defendant. The fact that these were physical assaults should have been given more consideration than any of the other facts, such as the defendant not having contacted her after she left the martial home.
This is a critical standard for the protection of domestic violence victims who suffer even one act of physical and/or sexual violence. Such forms of violence can and often do reoccur, sometimes months or years after the initial incident. The possibility of recurrence and the extreme nature of such abuse merits consideration for a final restraining order, although a formal hearing should be held in which both sides get to tell their sides of the story. For more information on your domestic violence rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.
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