Domestic Violence

We are living in unprecedented times with more and more people working and learning from home due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. For many people in New Jersey, this means that they are spending more time than ever with their family, spouses and domestic partners. While some may welcome this, it spells danger for those who were already in abusive relationships.

Domestic violence advocates typically use the phrase “walking on eggshells” to describe victims who tread carefully to avoid upsetting their abusers. The coronavirus could bring up similar worries about not knowing what comes next. For these individuals, distance was often necessary to keep tempers down and diffuse hostile situations. If those same people have no break from each other, arguments and other volatile situations may erupt into episodes of domestic violence.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, one in four women and one in seven men had experienced physical violence by a current or former partner, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. These figures are almost certain to rise with so many people living in isolation with their abusers.

1. What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any intimate or familial relationship that is used by one person to gain or maintain power and control over another person. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating.

2. What kinds of offenses can be considered domestic violence?

In New Jersey, domestic violence is defined by the occurrence of one or more of the following crimes or offenses upon a person protected under the “Prevention of Domestic Violence act of 1991,” P.L. 1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et al.):

Homicide – N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1 et seq.; Assault – N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1; Terroristic Threats – N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3; Stalking – N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10; Kidnapping -N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1; Criminal Restraint – N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2; False Imprisonment – N.J.S.A. 2C:13-3; Criminal Coercion – N.J.S.A. 2C:13-5; Sexual Assault – N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2; Criminal Sexual Contact – N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3; Lewdness – N.J.S.A. 2C:14-4; Robbery – N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; Criminal Mischief – N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3; Burglary – N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2; Criminal Trespass – N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3; Harassment – N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4; and Cyber-harassment N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4.1.

3. Who can be a victim of Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence acts are established by the relationship between the offender and the victim. A person protected by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act is 18 years of age or older, or who is an emancipated minor, and who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member. It also includes any person, regardless

of age, sex, or physical/psychological condition, who has been subjected to domestic violence by one of the following actors: a person with whom the victim has a child in common; a person with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant; or a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.

4. What legal remedies can I seek if I have been a victim of domestic violence?

You have the right to file a civil complaint under the “Prevention of Domestic Violence act of 1991,” P.L. 1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et al.), along with a criminal complaint. Both complaints should be filed for your protection since the civil complaint is designed to protect you and the criminal complaint is designed to punish the abuser.

5. What is a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)?

This is an order that is issued by a judge who is satisfied that demanding circumstances exist enough to excuse the failure of the victim to appear personally and that sufficient grounds for granting the temporary restraining order have been shown. To protect the victim from the defendant, the judge may grant within the temporary restraining order that:

The abuser is forbidden from returning to the scene of the Domestic Violence as well as other locations to be determined; the abuser is prohibited from future acts of Domestic Violence; the abuser is forbidden from possessing a firearm or weapons; the abuser is forbidden from having any communication or contact with the victim or the victim’s relatives in person, via the telephone, or in writing. This includes making or causing anyone else to do so, on the abuser’s behalf.

The abuser may also be required to pay temporary child support to the victim and/or reimburse the victim for any medical expenses incurred due to injury caused by defendant. Moreover, the victim is given exclusive possession of the residence and temporary custody of the children.

6. How do I get a Temporary Restraining Order?

Rest assured, you can still get a restraining order even with all that is going on. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, you should contact the Family Part of the Superior Court in your county Monday through Friday (8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.). While the courts are operating on limited schedules, these types of complaints are considered emergent and the court will make accommodations for you.

On the weekends, holidays, and after 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can request a TRO from the Municipal Court in your area – this is done through your State or local police department. Police departments are essential services which always maintain operations.

To receive more information, call the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-572-SAFE (7233). The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers confidential calls and chats any time, day or night. You can reach advocates at 1-800-799-7233 or

7. Do I have to go to Court?

The court will schedule a final restraining order hearing. While this typically occurs within 10 days it may be delayed due to temporary procedures being followed due to the coronavirus. Once the hearing is scheduled, both you and your abuser will have a chance to testify. This may be in person or electronically via video conference or teleconference depending on how the court is operating. The

judge will consider the testimony of each party and any other witnesses before issuing a Final Restraining Order.

8. Is a Final Restraining Order Permanent?

Yes. However, it can also be dissolved at the request of the victim.

In summary, if you have been the victim of domestic violence, you should act immediately to protect your rights, notwithstanding the coronavirus. Whether you are the accused or the accuser, you should contact a lawyer familiar with domestic violence procedures in New Jersey who can protect your rights and be an advocate for you.

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Dean Wittman
  Mr. Wittman practices in several areas of law, including personal injury, premises liability, auto negligence, civil rights and employment matters. He also handles divorces and other family law matters, to include child custody disputes, child support applications, domestic violence, pre-nuptial agreements, adoptions and alimony modification applications. To discuss your specific legal concern, you may get in touch with Mr. Wittman via email ( or website (URL