Even for an experienced New Jersey Divorce and Family Attorney, determining whether an individual’s behavior amounts to harassment under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act is a challenge. When a couple is experiencing a messy “break up,” my office is frequently asked to investigate such situations. As a New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer for nearly the past 20 years, my legal team and I analyze the specific facts of the situation in order to advise our client’s whether a Temporary Restraining Order is necessary. Simply put, the difference between Harassment under New Jersey’s Criminal Code versus “breaking up bickering” is often a very fine line. The best way to explain the difference is to share some examples but first let’s be clear what harassment is under New Jersey’s Criminal Code.
What is Harassment in New Jersey?
Harassment is Domestic Violence in New Jersey if the aggressor purposely intended to harass by using a course of alarming conduct or repeated acts intended to alarm or seriously annoy another causing immediate danger to a person or their property.
Who can I get a Temporary Restraining Order against?
You may obtain a Temporary Restraining Order against a spouse, a former spouse, a present or former household member, a person that you have a child with (even if currently pregnant) or someone that you have or had a dating relationship with.
What are examples of Harassment under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act?
I often find the best way to explain complex areas of NJ Domestic Violence law is to use examples. The “Plaintiff” is the victim who has obtained a Temporary Restraining Order and the “Defendant” is the accused domestic abuser. In each example that the Defendant was found to have harassed the Plaintiff, a Final Restraining Order was issued. Following please find a number of illustrations to help crystallize your understanding of Harassment in N.J.:
Example #1 – The Defendant committed Harassment when he drove back and forth past the Plaintiff’s home 6 times, then parked his car and walked back and forth in front of the house and watched her through a window. He then called her, asked her, “if she was packing” and told her that “he could find her where ever she went;”
Example #2 – The Defendant ‘s calling the Plaintiff 64 times in one day with various threats amounted to Harassment;
Example #3 – The Defendant caused Harassment when he sent the Plaintiff a series of text and emails in a very short amount of time. The Defendant also hired a private investigator and put a tracking device in the Plaintiff’s car. Further, he sent an email to their son’s teacher, with a copy to the Plaintiff, criticizing her parenting skills and mental stability and blamed her for their son’s recent issues regarding his behavior in class;
Example #4 – It was not harassment when the Defendant threatened to turn off the phone at the marital home and, in fact, carried out his juvenile threat as the Plaintiff was neither harmed or subjected to injury;
Example #5 – A single act of trespassing was not harassment especially when there was no violence or a threat of violence;
Example #6 – It was not harassment when the Defendant told the Plaintiff that he no longer loved her or felt attracted to her, even though it was his intention to put her down and make her feel emotionally distressed.
As a Final Restraining Order can have a devastating effect on a one’s life, including their relationship with their children, it is a matter that should never be taken lightly. If you feel you may be the victim of harassment, or if you feel you have been falsely accused, please call my New Jersey Family Law Firm to discuss the details of your situation so that we may provide you with not only our legal opinion, but strategies moving forward so that you may avoid such circumstances in the future.