During my career as a family attorney here in New Jersey, I have found that child custody is the most litigated issue surrounding parties who are getting divorced. In my experience, I have witnessed people go to great lengths to secure custody of their children and at times people cross the line to do so. Regretfully, This includes filing false accusations of domestic violence. I have represented a fair share of clients who have been falsely accused of domestic violence for the sole purpose of their partner trying to get a leg up in custody. Following please find a true story of a case recently handled by one of divorce law firm’s experienced attorneys, Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder, Esq.
Recently, Ms. Golinder represented one of our clients who is a young father in a New Jersey child custody dispute. This fellow wanted nothing more than to have a relationship with his two year old son. The father was never married to the child’s mother and he was granted unfettered access to the child while he and the mother were in a relationship. When the relationship ended the mother of the child decided that the father was no longer needed and she made it impossible for my client to see his son. Shortly thereafter the mother got engaged, changed her telephone number, moved and completely ignored my client’s attempt to see the child. She made it known that she and her new fiancé would be raising the child and that my client would not be allowed to have a relationship with his son. Since my client no longer had the mother’s phone number or address, the only way he had of contacting her was via email or at her place of employment. The mother no longer wanted to be bothered so she filed for a restraining order against my client claiming domestic violence and listed a long made up history of alleged abuse. Prior to the restraining order being filed, my client had been barred access to his son for months. The temporary restraining order was granted by the Court and the same included the child. My client now faced having a final restraining order entered against him which could negatively impact the rest of his life. As a result of the mother’s allegations, I had to prepare for a Final Restraining Order hearing to disprove the claims for the protection of my client.
It is important to know that the Court will consider three elements when deciding whether to grant a Final Restraining Order. First, the Court must find that the victim qualifies as a victim (that they are scared, fearful, need protection, etc.). Second, the Court must find that the Defendant committed an act of domestic violence. Please note that even if the Court finds that an act occurred, it does not automatically warrant a Final Restraining Order being granted. As a third element, the Court needs to determine whether the violence will continue and whether a Final Restraining Order is truly needed for protection.
For example, my client was charged with harassment based on him emailing the mother and appearing at her job in an attempt to see his son. It was clear that my client’s actions did not rise to the level of domestic violence and finding that they did would go against what New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act seeks to protect. As stated in the case of Peranio v. Peranio, if the Defendant was found guilty of domestic violence it would diminish the suffering of real victims and had the potential for an unfair advantage in a custody dispute. This is exactly what transpired in my client’s case.
I am happy to report that in the case of my client the Court recognized that the only reason the mother filed for a Final Restraining Order was because she did not want my client being a part of their son’s life. So even though my client was contacting the mother, she was unable to prove any type of domestic violence occurred or that she in fact needed protection against my client. Luckily the restraining order against my client was dismissed and he was able to resume contact with his son.
Being falsely accused of domestic violence can be terrifying and cases often come down to “he said she said”. The stakes are extremely high, especially when children are involved. If you find yourself in a situation where your partner is making false allegations against you in order to obtain custody, please contact our New Jersey law firm so that we may assist you in aggressively fighting for your rights.