Did you know? You don’t have to be married to be a domestic violence victim. In fact, you don’t need any familial relationship at all. It’s not just spouses, siblings or offspring that can request restraining orders. However, before you jump to conclusions, your disagreement with your neighbor does not necessarily mean you’re protected by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
Confused? That’s understandable. After all, the word “domestic” has some implications. To those unfamiliar with the Legislature’s intentions, it might seem to represent a household familiarity. Candidly, that’s just a part of it.
First things first. In one sense, age is critical in determining whether a person is eligible for the imposition of the court’s protection under domestic violence statutes. For the most part, domestic violence victims can request a restraining order if they are over the age of 18.
Meanwhile, emancipated minors can be domestic violence victims depending on the circumstances. Additionally, marriage is not the deciding factor in evaluating whether a couple can assert a claim citing domestic violence. Those who have children together – or are expecting a baby – may also request the court’s protection. Age is not a factor in such cases.
And, lest we forget – a mere dating relationship can result in the need for a restraining order. Notably, it’s not just physical acts that accentuate the need for protection. Take for example a case recently decided by the New Jersey Appellate Division.
Dating Couple Subject of Domestic Violence Complaint
The matter of T.R. v. P.F. was heard by the New Jersey Appellate Division on June 5, 2018 and decided on July 9, 2018. The case will not appear in published law books and is therefore considered an unpublished opinion. This means that the outcome of the matter only applies to the named parties. As an aside, initials are used in place of the couple to protect their identity.
T.R. and P.F. were boyfriend and girlfriend for three years. Their dating relationship was categorized as tumultuous. As is common these days, the two used electronic communications to express themselves.
T.R. provided the court with her concerns regarding her boyfriend’s behavior. She said that their relationship was “on and off.” Most times, the relationship end would come when P.F. would send mean text messages when he was angry with T.R.
According to T.R., she would subsequently “block” P.F. when she didn’t like the tenor of the messages she received. Somehow, the defendant managed to get through. It became a vicious cycle as T.R. forgave P.F. until the next time. To understand the magnitude of the exchange, it should be noted that T.R. estimated that she “blocked” the boyfriend at least 100 times.
Meanwhile, there were other acts that the plaintiff felt constituted domestic violence. One involved a tire slashing, followed by a card from T.R. to P.F. She referred to him as the “greatest gift anyone could receive.”
Another time, T.R. alleged that P.F. wrestled her and took her cellphone away from her. They subsequently spent the night together.
Text Messages Entered into Evidence
Text messages between June 29 and July 3, 2017 were entered into evidence. The court found that they were “coarse and intended to harass the plaintiff.” T.R. asserted that she felt threatened and scared. During the court hearing, P.F. acknowledged that the text messages were harassing. The court agreed that the text messages constituted an act of domestic violence.
However, the court raised another issue. In order to effectuate a final restraining order, certain proofs were necessary. More specifically, the law requires that the alleged domestic violence victim have a reasonable fear of threats to her “life, health, or safety.”
The judge cited credibility issues when deciding that a final restraining order was inappropriate in this situation. Essentially, both parties acknowledged that they were “playing a game.”
In delivering the determination, the court stated that the couple both engaged in manipulative conduct. Although T.R. was upset by the circumstances, it did not appear that she actually felt threatened that P.F. would harm her.
T.R. appealed the lower court’s decision. One of her contentions was that P.F. was a police officer and was given unfair deference as a result. The plaintiff felt that P.F. should have been compelled to forfeit his weapons. The New Jersey Appellate Division could find no evidence that this was the case. Therefore, they agreed that the trial judge had rightfully denied the application for a final restraining order and disallowed the weapons forfeiture request.
Have concerns about a domestic violence complaint? Contact the Law Offices of Sam Stoia to discuss the circumstances. We are happy to provide you with a complimentary meeting to provide you with experienced legal advice.