Under NJ family law, the issuance of a Domestic Violence Final Restraining Order does not require physical violence nor even the threat of physical violence.
In NJ, there are 14 separate criminal type actions that can give rise to the filing of a domestic violence complaint. Of those 14 actions, “Harassment” is the most commonly used basis for a family part judge to issue a Domestic Violence Restraining Order.
And, in the family law context, under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, a party commits an act of “harassment” (upon the other party) if he or she does any one of the following:
A. With the purpose to harass another, makes or causes to be made a communication or communications in offensively coarse language, or at extremely inconvenient hours or anonymously, or any other manner likely to cause alarm and annoyance:
B. With the purpose to harass, strikes, kicks, shoves or commits other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
C. With the purpose to harass another, engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with the purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other party.
In a recent unreported decision, the NJ Appellate Division affirmed a trial court’s entry of a final restraining order in favor of the husband and against the wife, based on a claim of harassment because of her excessive texting /telephone calls to her former husband and her threats to harm his career.
According to the trial testimony, in one day, wife made 72 phone calls to husband’s home phone between 8:00 p.m. and 11:08 p.m.; called his cell phone 30 times after 8 pm and sent him numerous text messages that afternoon.
Husband also testified that wife had a history of yelling and screaming at him and being out of control in her communications with him. Husband claimed that all of those actions by wife were intentional and designed to harass him. Critical to husband’s application for a restraining order was his belief that his former wife’s actions were intentional and designed to seriously alarm him and that her actions were unreasonable.
The trial judge found husband’s testimony credible and that the former wife’s actions (above) were intentional and designed to harass the former husband. Therefore, the trial judge issued a permanent order of protection in favor of the husband barring all future contact and communications by the wife and imposing restraints on the wife’s future contact with her former husband (and imposing restrictions on her contact with the parties children, all of whom lived with the husband).
After the trial court ruled against wife and entered a domestic violence final restraining order against her, the wife realized the consequence of the court’s actions and asked the court (for the first time) to permit her to get a lawyer. Unfortunately, by that point, she and her former husband had already testified and the court ruled that her request was too late. The appellate court agreed.