This is What Happens When Divorced Couples Engage in Harassment
There’s no absolute on what happens when divorced couples engage in harassment. Some are content to just avoid contact all on their own. Of course, this is much simpler if there are no children involved. Meanwhile, many former husbands and wives seek judicial intervention.
Going back to court after you’ve already been divorced may sound like a big hassle. Indeed, it can be. However, harassment may be considered a form of domestic violence. Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the victim may ask the court for protection. This comes in the form of a restraining order.
A recent New Jersey Appellate Division decision could be an eye-opener for some who feel their former spouse is harassing them. The court doesn’t arbitrarily mandate restraining orders without proof on an act of domestic violence. Meanwhile, evidence must be presented that the victim continues to feel threatened or fearful.
Restraining Order for Harassment
The New Jersey Appellate Division delivered a legal opinion in the matter of E.K.S. v. A.C.S. on June 28, 2018. In order to protect their identities, pseudonyms were used to describe the parties. Since this decision will not appear in published law books, it only applies to the couple confronted with this set of circumstances. Nonetheless, it provides some valuable insight into how the court rules on domestic violence issues.
E.K.S. (Edna) and A.C.S. (Allen) divorced in 2014, but continued to interact with one another because of their children. At the time a final restraining order (FRO) was put in place, the couple’s two sons were ages seven and eleven.
First, the situation that gave rise to the restraining order. As Allen was driving his sons from their mother’s home to his, the two boys were playing on their iPads. He was surprised when his younger son began making “weird sounds.” Subsequently, the older son read aloud a “provocative text.”
After hearing the contents of the message, Allen immediately grabbed hold of the iPads and found a nude photograph of his ex-wife accompanied by suggestive text. From all appearances, it seemed that the message was intended for a married client of Edna’s employer.
Allen took a photograph of the message and its attachment and confronted Edna. His first reaction was to return to Edna’s home so that she could remove the text and photos from their sons’ iPads.
The Harassment Begins
Notably, Allen was taking the boys with him to Florida on the day following this incident. Upon their return, Allen contacted Edna with a proposal. It seems Allen was all set to pass on the incriminating information to Edna’s married lover’s wife and family. He even suggested that Edna’s employer might receive a copy of the embarrassing photo and text message.
Allen indicated that the whole situation could be avoided if Edna agreed to waive nearly $10,000 in financial arrears. Initially, Edna considered the idea. However, she wanted Allen to put in writing that he would not circulate the troublesome documentation. When he would not agree, Edna filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO).
Restraining Order Granted
In making her application for the restraining order, Edna provided the court with Allen’s suggestion that he would distribute explicit photos of her if she did not agree to waive financial arrears. Meanwhile, Edna cited prior acts of concern. For example, Allen once threatened to shave Edna’s head when she was asleep. Edna further indicated that Allen used to “push and shove her” when they lived together as a married couple.
The court entered the TRO in August of 2015, which prevented Allen from disseminating the photos and messages in question. During the hearing concerning the FRO application, the court found that Allen’s conduct and insistence on waiver of the financial arrears were inappropriate. In fact, it interpreted Allen’s intent was “to torture her (Edna), to make her miserable, to make her upset, to annoy her and alarm her.”
Ultimately, the trial court judge ruled that Allen did harass Edna. The FRO limited all communications between the parties through email. The court found that without the order in place, Allen would continue to threaten Edna. The Appellate Division agreed with the findings of the lower court.
If you think you are a victim of domestic violence, the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone are here to help you. We also represent individuals who are concerned that a restraining order may be entered against them. Contact us to see how we can help.