Brother Wins Domestic Violence Restraining Order Against Sister
Under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), a domestic violence restraining order can be granted for assault, harassment or other covered acts committed against a spouse, former spouse, present or former household member, current or former boyfriend/girlfriend, or between persons who have a child in common. A person alleging domestic violence is able to get a temporary restraining order for ten days, but then a hearing must be held before a final restraining order can be put in place. The defendant has the right to appear at that hearing with legal counsel and oppose the order.
Earlier this month, the case of M.P. v. K.K. dealt with the question of whether a brother and sister constituted “former household members” for purposes of the PDVA, even if they hadn’t lived in the same house for 13 years.
The plaintiff in this case filed a domestic violence civil complaint against his sister in September 2013. The complaint alleged that his sister had done all of the following:
- Got somebody to falsely inform his wife that he had impregnated a “random woman”
- Threw a glass bottle against his front door
- Sent a text to his stepdaughter stating that she would destroy his life
- Vandalized cars parked in his driveway
- Solicited a store clerk to assault him
- Made false reports against him to the Division of Youth and Family Services eight times over the last 13 years
- Drove past his house shouting profanity and making obscene gestures at his young children
- Left abusive voicemails on his home and said she wished he would die
- Physically, verbally and emotionally abused his special needs son, including threatening to throw him out of a moving car
- Sent a threatening text to his wife
The trial court granted a temporary restraining order and later granted a final restraining order. The sister appealed this order to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, which affirmed the order.
The sister had argued that the family court lacked jurisdiction to issue a final domestic violence restraining order under the PDVA, alleging that the brother and sister were not “former household members” under the law. To answer this question, the court used a six-part test to determine who constitutes a former household member under the PDVA. These factors are:
- The nature and duration of the prior relationship
- Whether the past domestic relationship provides a special opportunity for abuse and controlling behavior
- The passage of time since the end of the relationship
- The extent and nature of any intervening contacts
- The nature of the precipitating incident
- The likelihood of ongoing contact or relationship
The court went through each of the six factors and found that the PDVA applied to this situation. The court noted other instances of harassment that began back when the siblings lived together with their mother and continued to the present day.
The sister had also argued that she did not commit domestic violence, but the court found that substantial evidence supported the trial court’s decision to impose a final restraining order, including finding that the sister did in fact commit those acts and that a final restraining order was necessary to protect the brother and his family from further abuse.
This case is very illustrative in describing what kind of conduct constitutes domestic violence and what is required to issue a final restraining order under the law. As the court noted in its decision, the PDVA is interpreted very broadly and liberally in favor of stopping and preventing acts of domestic violence.
If you are trapped in an abusive situation, get to a safe place and call 911, or contact the local police or a local domestic violence agency. You may be able to find a local resource through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. For legal assistance with a temporary or final restraining order in New Jersey, contact the Law Office of John B. D’Alessandro in Wayne for a confidential consultation or immediate assistance. We serve clients in and around Essex, Union and Middlesex Counties in domestic violence and other family law matters.