Broadening the Definition of Domestic Violence in New Jersey

Last year’s change in the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (“PDVA”) and two recent New Jersey cases are expanding what can be considered an “act of domestic violence,” for purposes of obtaining a Temporary and Final Restraining Order.  In 2015 the New Jersey legislature amended the PDVA to include a defendant’s violation of a no contact provision of a restraining order as an act of domestic violence.   This provision of the PDVA was intelligently analyzed by Judge L.R. Jones (Ocean County) for the first time in the recent case of DS v. BC (unreported August 2016). In this case, the Court indicated that a “knowing violation of a restraining order,” meets the first prong of Silver v. Silver (whether the victim has “proved by a preponderance of the evidence that one or more acts of domestic violence have taken place”) and then laid out a thoughtful analysis of this new provision of the PDVA.

The Court provided the following framework: (1) that the victim must still meet the second prong of Silver (“a restraining order is necessary to protect the victim,”), (2) that two or more separate acts even if independent of each other in the aggregate can satisfy Silver, (3) that the right to seek a restraining order based upon a knowing violation of an existing restraining order  is independent of the right to pursue a contempt proceeding and (4) this provision of the PDVA applies equally to knowing violations of both temporary and final restraining orders.

The NJ Courts’ efforts to broaden the scope of what can be considered harassment and accordingly, domestic violence, was further developed in the case of C.G. v. E.G (June 2016- Judge Jones).  The Court found that economic harassment can be considered a form of domestic violence. In this case, the defendant had contacted the victim’s employer without her consent and attempted to interfere with her employment by bothering her employer and her employer’s wife and embarrassing the victim.  These two cases and the legislative change to the PDVA in 2015 point to the fact that Courts are to view potential acts of domestic violence with a much wider lens and that abuse can come in many forms.

For more information or for assistance with a domestic violence matter, please contact Georgia Fraser, Esq. of Fraser Family Law Office at (609)223-2099.