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When Should You Sue for Domestic Violence?

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Domestic violence is an epidemic in the United States and elsewhere. One in four women, and one in nine men, will experience severe physical violence, stalking, or sexual violence from an intimate partner. A third of all women and a quarter of all men experience some form of physical violence committed by a romantic partner. Abusive relationships are upsetting and dangerous, and they can leave you disoriented and conflicted. There are very good reasons to take a domestic violence perpetrator to court. Below, we discuss several of the benefits of pursuing domestic violence claims in court. If you or your family have been subjected to domestic violence, talk to a compassionate New Jersey domestic violence attorney for advice on how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

Obtaining a Restraining Order

If you have experienced domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence in your home, you can go to a nearby county court and petition for a restraining order. If you fear for your safety or the safety of your children, it might be worth pursuing a restraining order. At a minimum, it’s important to get yourself and your family to a safe place and report your concerns to the authorities.

A restraining order is an order from the court that can restrict the behavior of a given individual and provide other necessary relief. In New Jersey, there are two types of domestic violence restraining orders: temporary ex parte restraining orders (TROs) and final restraining orders.

A TRO allows you to get immediate relief to protect your life, health, or well-being, or that of your family. You can petition the court to obtain a TRO effective immediately, even without the target of the restraining order present. A TRO will last until the hearing for the final restraining order, which should be scheduled within 10 days.

A final restraining order can be obtained after a hearing before the court. The target of the restraining order has the right to appear and defend against the restraining order. The final restraining order can last for a set period or last indefinitely (no set end date) until one of the parties files a motion to end or modify the order.

A restraining order can include a variety of provisions, including:

  • Restrict the defendant from contacting the victim or their family
  • Prevent the defendant from returning to the scene of the domestic violence (meaning they must move out of the home)
  • Grant the plaintiff temporary custody of shared children
  • Grant the plaintiff possession of a pet
  • Forbid the defendant from carrying a firearm or other certain weapons
  • Grant the plaintiff exclusive possession of the home, regardless of whose name is on the lease
  • Other forms of relief as necessary

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

Raising domestic violence claims in court can also help you protect your children and obtain full custody. As noted, a restraining order can grant you temporary custody of your children to protect them from the perpetrator. You can take the matter further and file a claim for sole custody, raising the issue of domestic violence. You can also raise domestic violence in a divorce proceeding to support your argument for primary or sole custody. Courts will not allow a party to maintain custody if they pose a threat to the health or safety of a child.

Claims of domestic violence in divorce proceedings are often hotly disputed; it’s extremely helpful to have prior evidence of domestic violence to support your case. If your spouse has been arrested on domestic violence charges, or if they have been the subject of a restraining order (or they are currently subject to a restraining order), you’ll have an easier time demonstrating that your spouse should not have custody because they pose a danger to your kids.

Money Damages for Domestic Violence

In New Jersey, there’s an additional reason to sue for domestic violence: compensation. People who suffer injury as a result of the action of another person can file a personal injury claim for damages. Money damages are intended to compensate an injured victim for things like their medical bills, lost income due to time spent recovering from injury, and their pain and suffering and emotional distress.

New Jersey law authorizes domestic abuse victims to sue for compensation for any injuries they have suffered at the hands of an abuser. Moreover, New Jersey law specifically permits the victim of non-consensual image sharing (“revenge porn”) to sue for damages. Talk to a personal injury or family law attorney about the harm you have suffered and what damages you may be able to claim in a lawsuit.

Call a seasoned New Jersey Divorce Attorney Today

If you’ve been subjected to actual or threatened domestic violence, or if you are dealing with issues involving child custody, equitable division of property, alimony/spousal support, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the zealous and trial-ready Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.

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