When You Need a Restraining Order Against Your Own Child
You may bow your head in shame or shake in frustration. The very idea that you might need a restraining order against your own child sounds foreign to most. However, it may be your best course of action.
According to NJSA 2C:25-19, an act of domestic violence must be inflicted by an adult or an emancipated minor in order for the court to consider an order of protection. Only certain relationships qualify under this portion of the law, known as the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991.
That said, you should know that domestic violence victims don’t just consist of couples involved in marital or dating relationships. Domestic violence laws also protect individuals who are present or former household members. Since you presumably lived with your child at some point, the court would consider your application for a restraining order.
What if your child is under the age of 18? The court grants restraining orders against emancipated minors as detailed in this article. In cases where you are dealing with an out of control minor child, New Jersey Children’s System of Care may be able to help you and your family get the help you need.
A Restraining Order Against Your Own Child Sounds Extreme
No doubt, the concept of seeking a restraining order against your own child sounds extreme. Unfortunately, it may seem the only alternative to a bad situation. Nonetheless, the courts contemplate several factors before executing an order of protection.
First, consider the prevalence of elder abuse. Truth be told, it’s not just an issue of what happens in nursing homes. Too often, harm to older family members comes from their own children. Physical abuse constitutes only one reason for requesting a restraining order. The list includes other criminal acts such as harassment and terroristic threats.
Local police throughout Jersey City and other parts of Hudson County report other issues parents have with their adult children. Truth be told, the effects of the opioid crisis continues to impact negative interactions between family members.
Some parents make the case that their children are not permitted in their homes without permission. If illegal entry results in theft and burglary charges, the parents may seek a formal restraining order on that basis.
The New Jersey Appellate Division recently decided a case involving a father’s pursuit of a restraining order against his adult son. Although the outcome only applies to the named parties, it proves an interesting read.
Lower Court Granted Father’s Request for Restraining Order
In sharing its legal opinion in LB v. RB, the court used initials to protect the identities of the parties. According to the case history, the plaintiff, LB, is the defendant RB’s father. The mother is not a party to the litigation.
While there is no indication of RB’s actual age, it stands to reason that he is over 18. At the time the father sought an order of protection, the son lived at home. LB complained that RB refused to comply with the rules of his house.
For starters, RB either came home late or not at all. Not only was he intoxicated at times, but RB was also verbally inappropriate to his parents. LB informed the court that his son pushed him and his wife. Additionally, he punched holes in the walls and made threats.
When asked about the nature of the threats, LB provided further information. In one instance, RB stated that he would shoot an aging family cat. In another, he spoke of knocking down or burning down what was his late grandmother’s house. The defendant claimed the home had no value and was useless.
According to LB, RB injured his mother when he closed her hand in a door. Meanwhile, the father did not indicate that the incident was intentional.
Son’s Disputed Father’s Testimony
When it was his turn to testify. RB disputed his father’s version of events. More specifically, he denied allegations that he wanted to burn down his grandmother’s house. He never intentionally punched holes in the wall. Additionally, RB said that he accidentally closed his mother’s hand in the door and never intended to harm her.
As far as RB was concerned, his parents didn’t approve of the girl he was dating. In fact, they told him he needed to leave their house if he continued to see her. He rejected their ultimatum.
Complaint Brought Under Harassment Statute
The trial court judge noted that the complaint in this matter was filed under the harassment statute. Among other things, a person can be found guilty of harassment if, with purpose to harass another, he:
- Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm; [or]
- Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so[.]
The judge found that the father’s testimony supported the elements of this portion of the statute. The court also decided the restraining order proved necessary to prevent further abuse. More specifically, there was a “risk of future high conflict.”
Appellate Division Reversed and Remanded Case
RB disagreed with the order of protection against him and appealed the matter. Upon review, the Appellate Division discussed the need for proofs that a defendant guilty of harassment acted “with purpose to harass.” It wasn’t enough that the LB asserted that his son’s conduct was harassing in nature.
In the meantime, the trial court also needed to evaluate a prior history of violence between the parties. This also factors into the decision to execute a restraining order. Furthermore, existing case law stresses the need for the court “to distinguish between ordinary disputes and disagreements between family members and those acts that cross the line into domestic violence.”
Ultimately, the Appellate Division determined that the restraining order “must also be reversed because the judge did not find that restraints were necessary “to protect the victim from an immediate danger or to prevent further abuse.”