October is National Domestic Violence Month and as a New Jersey Divorce and Family Lawyer I am very proud to live in a state where laws are place to provide protection to victims. Currently, victims of domestic violence can take legal refuge under the The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, (a readable brochure is available by clicking here). In addition to put very specific and strong language around what constitutes an act of domestic violence, this act provides victims with two very important forms of relief:
1) Civil relief: ability to file a restraining order.
2) Criminal relief: victims can file criminal charges against the abuser.
On numerous occasions this act has enabled me to protect my clients ensuring their safety and protection from violent acts committed against them by family and household members.
In an effort to straighten the penalties for offenders and provide greater support for victims, there are two very important pieces of legislation under review by the New Jersey Legislature.
The first, is A-3271 sponsored by Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley . This bill would make it a crime to commit an act of domestic violence in the presence of a minor child (under 16 years of age). An offender could face the possibility of conviction both for the original act of violence and of committing that act in the company of a child. In Ms. Riley’s own words: “Many children who have witnessed domestic abuse at home develop emotional and behavioral problems that impact their development. They often carry that scar into adulthood and see violence as an appropriate reaction to conflict. It’s a sickening cycle with dangerous consequences,” said Riley. “This bill recognizes that in a household inflicted by domestic violence, children who witness the abuse are victims as well and creates the appropriate punishment.”
And the second is the “New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act” also knows as the NJ SAFE Act, NJ State Senate Bill No. 2177 sponsored by NJ State Senator Fred H. Madden.. This bill is an attempt to provide some relief time from work for victims of domestic violence without the threat of losing their jobs, similar to the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act. After an act of domestic violent or sexual attack, a victim (or his/her family member) may take up to twenty (20) days of leave time within one year of the incident. This acknowledges a victims need to obtain services and counseling, make plans for future safety including possible relocation, seek legal assistance, and participate in any civil or criminal legal proceedings. The time involved in these activities cannot be charged against any vacation or personal time an employee has accrued and a victim is guaranteed to have a job when they return. As stated by Senator Madden: “The horrors of domestic violence or sexual assault don’t simply stop because someone has to go to work. They can have devastating, long lasting impacts. That is why it is crucial we pass this legislation. Allowing victims or the families the time they need to try and get their lives together is a matter of simple, common decency.” Quoting research conducted by Legal Momentum “domestic violence “lose an average of 137 hours of work a year.” This includes time to seek medical attention, deal with legal issues like filing a restraining order, and relocation issues.
We applaud the NJ Legislature for continuing to improve protection and support laws for victims of domestic violence and look forward to these two important pieces of legislation moving swiftly through the process to help our clients. In the meantime, f you need help protecting yourself or your children from an abuser, please call our office today at (732) 246-0909 for a free consultation. Our attorneys can provide legal counsel and assistance to aggressively fight for your safety.