It is a local story with national headlines. News that an off-duty New Jersey police officer shot and killed his ex-wife once again brings domestic violence to the forefront. Although the degrees of domestic violence may vary in nature and character, they all represent a common theme. Domestic violence can be alarming and life changing in many aspects. Learn how domestic violence affects parenting time.
Domestic Violence Victims
New Jersey has established laws for the protection of domestic violence victims. The law identifying those who fall is this category can be found at N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(d). More specifically, domestic violence laws apply to the following:
- Anyone over age 18 or an emancipated minor, subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or present or former household members
- Anyone subjected to domestic violence by a person who shares parenthood
- Anyone who anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant
- Those involved in dating relationships who experience domestic violence
When a couple shares children, there is an issue of parenting time. The New Jersey courts recognize parenting time as the right of the child to enjoy both parents. Prior to the occurrence of an act of domestic violence, a court order may already be in place regarding parenting time. This could include a weekly visitation schedule, as well as time allotments for holidays and vacation. It may be necessary to reconstruct the document with a change in circumstances.
After an act of domestic violence, a restraining order may be issued against the perpetrator. This prohibits contact between the individuals. For those involved in shared parenting arrangements, this may be difficult. Judicial intervention is often a necessity.
Obviously, the safety of all parties is an important consideration to the court. In reviewing cases involving domestic violence and parenting time, the law calls for a risk assessment. The purpose is to ensure the wellbeing of both parents and children. The prevailing case regarding risk assessment after the entry of a restraining order is found in Lavine v. Lanza, 429 N.J. Super. 164 (Ch. Div. 2012).
In the Lavine matter, the parties were parents of a two-year-old daughter. The mother was the custodial parent. Although a parenting time order was already in place, she waited until after the issuance of the restraining order to request a risk assessment and suspension of the father’s parenting time. (Neither party had legal representation at the hearing granting the restraining order.)
The father argued that there was already a parenting time arrangement in place and the application should have been made when the restraining order was granted. The court ruled in the mother’s favor, finding the application was neither arbitrary or capricious.
Domestic violence and parenting time are delicate issues. In order to understand your legal rights, you need an experienced advocate. Contact Sam Stoia for a complimentary appointment to discuss your circumstances.