Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence?

The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating.

New Jersey's Legal Definition of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence means the occurrence of one or more of the following criminal offenses upon a person protected under the "Prevention of Domestic Violence act of 1991," P.L. 1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et al.)

Assault: N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1
Burglary: N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2
Contempt: 2C:29-9b
Criminal Coercion: N.J.S.A. 2C:13-5
Criminal Mischief: N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3
Criminal Restraint: N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2
Criminal Sexual Contact: N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3
Criminal Trespass: N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3
False Imprisonment: N.J.S.A. 2C:13-3 

Harassment: N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4
Homicide: N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1 et seq.
Kidnapping: N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1
Lewdness: N.J.S.A. 2C:14-4
Robbery: N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1
Sexual Assault: N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2
Stalking: N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10
Terroristic Threats: N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3

Who can be a victim of Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence acts are established by the relationship between the offender and the victim. A person protected by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act is 18 years of age or older, or who is an emancipated minor, and who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member. Any person, regardless of age, sex, or physical/psychological condition, who has been subjected to domestic violence by one of the following actors:

  • A person with whom the victim has a child in common
  • A person with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant.
  • A person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship

What are the criteria for an Emancipated Minor?

A person who is under 18 years of age and meets any of the following conditions:

  • Has been married
  • Has entered the military
  • Has a child
  • Is pregnant
  • Is declared by a court or administrative agency to be emancipated

*Please be aware if the actor is under 18 years of age and is not emancipated, it is not domestic violence but is considered an act of juvenile delinquency.

What legal remedies can I seek if I have been a victim of domestic violence?

You have the right to file a civil complaint under the “Prevention of Domestic Violence act of 1991,” P.L. 1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et al.), along with a criminal complaint. Both complaints should be filed for your protection since the civil complaint is designed to protect you and the criminal complaint is designed to punish the abuser.

What is a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)?

This is an order that is issued by a judge who is satisfied that demanding circumstances exist enough to excuse the failure of the victim to appear personally and that sufficient grounds for granting the temporary restraining order have been shown. To protect the victim from the defendant, the judge may grant within the temporary restraining order that the:

  • The abuser is forbidden from returning to the scene of the Domestic Violence as well as other locations to be determined.
  • The abuser is prohibited from future acts of Domestic Violence.
  • The abuser is forbidden from possessing a firearm or weapons.
  • The abuser is forbidden from having any communication or contact with the victim or the victim’s relatives in person, via the telephone, or in writing. This includes making or causing anyone else to do so, on the abuser’s behalf.
  • The abuser is required to pay temporary child support to victim.
  • The abuser is required to reimburse the victim for any medical expenses incurred due to injury caused by defendant.
  • The victim is given exclusive possession of the residence.
  • The victim is given temporary custody of the children.

How do I get a TRO?

Contact the Family Part of the Superior Court in your county Monday through Friday (8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.).

On the weekends, holidays, and after 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can request a TRO from the Municipal Court in your area - this is done through your State or local police department.

To receive information about contacting a court for a TRO, call your State or local police department or call the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-572-SAFE (7233).

Within 10 days of the TRO the court will schedule a hearing. Both you and your abuser will have a chance to testify. The judge will consider both testimonies before issuing a Final Restraining Order.

Summary findings from the New Jersey Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board Report February 2003:

  • In most New Jersey homicide-suicides, the perpetrators were men, who Killed their intimate partners,
  • Typically when the woman was planning to leave or the couple had recently separated. Repeatedly, experts in the field of Domestic Violence report that the most dangerous time for the victim is when she decides to leave the perpetrator.
  • There was often evidence of a history of Domestic Violence, including police reports of prior incidents of violence, or threats of violence and/or reports, or suspicions of abuse by family, friends and employers.
  • Lastly, guns were used in nearly all of these fatalities.
  • Victims and perpetrators represented the diversity of residents in the general population with one exception: nearly all perpetrators were men, and nearly all victims were women.
  • Findings in New Jersey match the commonly reported scenario of these deaths nationwide.