All too often in the realm of family relationships Domestic Violence occurs and the victims feel trapped and alone. I recently saw the poignant and moving film “Precious” and left the theater saddened by the senseless and insidious violence that all too often occurs within a home, shielded from the world. Shielded, that is, from all except the poor victim of the violence and abuse.
In New Jersey “The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act” was adopted in 1990 and is an extremely powerful law that supports the belief that you have a legal right to live free from physical harm, verbal and physical abuse and threats. While the law can not guarantee your safety, it does as much as it can to shield you from domestic violence. It is therefore imperative that anyone involved in a violent situation be aware of this law and the protection that it provides. This article is meant to give you a very broad overview of this law. The article does not cover all aspects of the law and you are urged to seek legal assistance if you feel that you are the victim of domestic violence that threatens you and/or your children.
Domestic violence includes, but is not limited to, physical attacks that cause you harm or fear of harm, threats that make you fear for your safety or life, imprisonment, sexual assaults, damage to personal property, forced entry into your home, repeated verbal humiliation and attacks and stalking. Consult a professional if you believe you are subject to domestic violence.
If you are the victim of domestic violence you can call the police to come to your home, go to the police station or seek help from the Court. Depending on your situation you may be able to file a criminal complaint and/or a civil complaint – each of which carry significant penalties if the abuser is found guilty. If you are in fear for your safety or life you must get out of the situation and away from the abuser.
A temporary restraining order (TRO) must be issued by either a Domestic Violence Hearing Officer or a Judge in the Municipal or Superior Court. The TRO will then be served upon the abuser and a Court date will be set so that you can appear in Court and explain to a Judge why you are in need of protection. Once the TRO is issued, the abuser will be forbidden from having any contact with you until your Court date. Depending on the complaints lodged and the Order entered, the abuser may or may not have to spend time in jail.
In order for the Court to issue a Final Restraining Order (FRO) the Judge must hear testimony from both parties and make a ruling on whether or not an act or acts of domestic violence occurred. You will have to testify as to the events and you must be prepared to give all of the details even if they are difficult to discuss. You may even have to testify about past abuse. A FRO is a very serious Order and you have the burden of proving your allegations. It is advisable to have counsel when pursuing a FRO so that you can protect yourself and your children.
The protections of a FRO are varied and tailored to your specific needs. By way of example, the court may order the abuser to move out of the house and grant you possession of the home, may award you custody of the children, seizure of weapons, risk evaluations, counseling, etc. The Court may also order the abuser to pay child support and the household bills for a certain period of time. The relief afforded by the Act is varied and it will depend on your particular situation which is why is it advisable to have counsel to give you advice and fight for the protections that you require.
Although this is a very broad overview, I hope that you walk away from reading this with the knowledge that there is hope for you if you are in an abusive situation. There are no guarantees for your safety, but there is a law and a procedure that will do all that strives to protect you. Seek counsel and act immediately if you feel threatened and/or abused.
Send a Message to Bonnie...