Victims of domestic violence are often unpredictable. There are those that seek out a restraining order at the slightest verbal provocation. Meanwhile, an amazing number of domestic violence victims wait it out. You might be surprised at how often an application for protective relief involves a history of domestic violence.
According to statistics accumulated by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than two-thirds of domestic violence acts go unreported to the police. In some cases, the victim is fearful that a report will further provoke the abuser. Others do not realize that non-physical assaults can be a form of domestic violence.
However, there is one thing for certain. When courts decide on effectuating restraining orders, a history of prior acts of domestic violence is given consideration. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the police were ever advised of the issues. A recent New Jersey ruling discusses the significance of a history of anything defined as a predicate act of domestic violence.
History of Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders
First, you need to be made aware of some information regarding the case we are about to present to you. Although the court wrote an opinion in SME v. AE, NJ: Appellate Div. 2017, it is considered unpublished. This means that the ruling only applies to the named parties and is therefore not deemed precedent. Additionally, the names of the litigants have been masked as initials for purposes of confidentiality.
According to the history of the case, S.M.E. and A.E. were married at one time. While in the midst of pursuing their divorce, the court entered a final restraining order (“FRO”). The grounds for the FRO were that A.E. assaulted and threatened his wife.
The decision to grant the final restraining order was based on the evidence presented at the trial court level. The judge found that S.M.E.’s claims that she was abused were both “consistent and credible.” In part, a photograph showing the victim’s bruised body collaborated her assertion that her then-husband assaulted her.
Meanwhile, A.E. attempted to present a different fact scenario. He claimed that S.M.E.’s bruise occurred when she hit a doorknob in the house. Upon review of a photograph of the door, the trial court did not believe this version of the incident.
There was other evidence submitted during the hearing that added to the judge’s decision to grant the restraining order. Among them were witness testimony from the victim’s mother. Additionally, evidence was provided demonstrating that A.E. previously threatened S.M.E. on more than one occasion.
After the restraining order was granted, A.E. appealed the decision. The Appellate Division agreed with the lower court’s ruling. Learn why.
Proving the Need for a Restraining Order
In matters where the domestic violence is physical, it is often easier to obtain a restraining order. In this case, the judge evaluated the testimony and evidence and came to a conclusion. Assault is considered a predicate act of domestic violence and warrants a protection order.
However, just proving a predicate act of domestic violence is not enough when it comes to securing a final restraining order. According to NJSA 2C:25-29, a “previous history of domestic violence between the plaintiff and defendant, including threats, harassment, and physical abuse” must also be considered. The history of abuse in the SME v. AE, NJ: Appellate Div. 2017 decision led the judge to a meaningful conclusion.
Restraining orders are not just entered because of a predicate act of domestic violence. They are designed “to protect the victim from an immediate danger or to prevent further abuse.” Therefore, a restraining order was necessary in this matter.