Know Your Rights – Victims of Domestic Violence & the Law

 

If you would like more information or have other domestic violence related questions, please call the Staff Attorney at the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV) at (609) 584-8107. The Staff Attorney is available to provide legal expertise and resources by way of brief phone consultations with victims of domestic violence on family law, Final Restraining Orders and other domestic violence related legal matters.  All calls are kept confidential and with strict attorney client privilege.  In addition, the Staff Attorney can provide Technical Assistance to other organizations and individuals assisting victims of domestic violence. Please note that all calls are returned as soon as possible.

 

Who qualifies as a victim under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act?

Any person who is 18 years of age or older or who is an emancipated minor (see below) 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

OR

Any person, regardless of age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has a child, or with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common (i.e. is pregnant)

OR

Any person, regardless of age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship. Please be aware that under the PDVA, although a victim of domestic violence does not have to be 18 years of age or older, a defendant must be 18 years of age or older. If the abuser is a minor, juvenile laws apply.

“Emancipated minor” means a person who is under 18 years of age but who has been married, has entered military service, has a child or is pregnant, or has been previously declared by a court or an administrative agency to be emancipated.

Reliefs Available Under New Jersey's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act

1. Restraining Order

The batterer can be forbidden to have ANY contact with you, relatives, friends, or anyone else at your home, workplace, school or other locations.

2. Possession of Your Home

The batterer can be forbidden from entering and living at your home. You can be given exclusive possession of the home that you currently share, even if the batterer owns it or is named exclusively on the lease. If this happens, the judge will give the batterer, accompanied by the police or the sheriff, a short time to enter the home to gather personal possessions. The batterer can also be ordered to pay the mortgage or rent, utilities and other household expenses. The judge will not order in-house restraints which are prohibited by law.

3. Custody of Children

The Act provides a presumption of temporary custody to the non-violent parent. That means that the batterer has the burden of explaining to the court why custody should not be given to the victim. The Act requires the judge to assume that the children are better off with the non-violent parent. If you, the victim, have to leave the house before you get your restraining order, you should take your children with you and not leave them with the batterer.

4. Visitation Arrangements for Children

The judge will decide visitation arrangements i.e. ‘parenting time’ for the batterer to visit with the children if the children are not endangered by being with the batterer. Arrangements can be made for curbside drop-off and pick-up. Sometimes, the children can be dropped off at a neutral third party’s home for the visitation. On occasion, the judge may order supervised parenting time if he or she is not certain that the children should be with the batterer in an unsupervised setting. You can ask the court for a risk assessment of the batterer if you think that the children would not be safe visiting with the batterer. You should explain to the judge why you think the children would not be safe, for instance; the batterer drinks, or takes drugs, or has been violent, abusive or neglectful of the children. A risk assessment is an evaluation of the batterer to assess whether parenting time will endanger the children. Make sure the parenting time order does not include an arrangement where you and the batterer come in contact. You need to be safe. Ask the judge to order parenting time arrangements that keep you and the children safe. It is helpful to the judge if you suggest arrangements that are satisfactory to you.

5. Economic Support for You and Your Children

You can request that the judge order child support for the children and you can ask for emergency support for yourself if you have been economically dependent on the batterer and you do not have money for food, shelter or other expenses. If the judge orders support for you and the children, it can be temporary, interim (while other court action is pending) or permanent. You should bring financial records with you to the final restraining order hearing so that the judge knows the income and expenses for you, the batterer and the children. This includes payroll stubs, rent receipts, mortgage coupons, car payment stubs, tax returns, etc.

6. Money to Compensate You for Damages

If in the course of the domestic violence, you have incurred expenses because of harm to you caused by the batterer, property damage by the batterer, you have un-reimbursed medical expenses, moving expenses to get to a safe place, counseling expenses, lawyer’s fees, or time lost from work for which you were not paid, you can ask the judge to order the batterer to reimburse you for these expenses.

7. Counseling

You can ask the judge to order that the batterer participate in a batterers’ intervention program and/or substance abuse program (alcohol and/or drugs). You can ask that the judge require the program to report to the court whether the batterer has attended the program.

8. Property

You can ask the judge to order that you have the health insurance card, checkbook, car or other items that you may require that you do not have now.

9. Any Other Relief Deemed Appropriate By The Court

You can ask the judge for any other relief to which you feel you are entitled or that you feel is necessary to prevent further domestic violence.
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