Why Was a Restraining Order Even Entered in this Case?
We hate to make this personal. However, you might want to consider this scenario. You and your wife have a blowout fight. She throws a glass figurine at you, and you wind up needing stitches just above your eyebrow. It’s not the first time she’s assaulted you, and you’re fearful that it will happen again. You’re shocked when the court imposes a restraining order – and names you as a defendant!
First, rest assured. The court finds that you have sufficiently met the proofs for protection under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA). The judge puts a no-contact order in place against your wife. And yes, you are rightfully named as the victim.
In the meantime, your wife decides to place the blame on you. She claims you threatened her. Upon review of the evidence, the judge acknowledges that your wife has failed to prove her allegations. So, why in the world would the judge mandate an FRO (final restraining order) against you if your darling bride lost her case?
The answer to this question actually lies in a precedential case decided by the New Jersey Superior Court in 1997. Learn what you need to know about family court judges and equitable proofs.
Equitable Proofs and Restraining Orders
As noted, the New Jersey Appellate Division decided P.J.G. v. P.S.S. over twenty years ago. The names of the parties are represented by initials in order to protect their identities. It is unclear from the decision whether the parties were married, dating, or in another relationship as described in NJSA 2C:25-19. There were cross-complaints filed by each of the parties.
The court’s decision does not contain the written opinion in the matter filed by P.S.S. against P.J.G. From all appearances, that case resulted in the issuance of a final restraining order “prohibiting P.J.G. from engaging in future acts of domestic violence against P.S.S. and restraining contact or communication.”
When the lower court reviewed P.J.G.’s claims of assaultive behavior, it did not find that the acts rose to the level of domestic violence. Essentially they were termed of insufficient consequence. Nevertheless, the judge signed “a final restraining order…prohibiting P.S.S. from engaging in future acts of domestic violence, barring her from two locations including P.J.G.’s place of employment, and enjoining her from harassing communication with P.J.G. or from “stalking, following, or threatening to harm, to stalk or to follow” him.”
P.S.S. appealed the entry of the FRO. According to the applicable law, a restraining order cannot be entered unless there is proof of an act of domestic violence – or an admission of one from the defendant. Since this was not the case in P.J.G. v. P.S.S., the court found ordered the restraining order in that case vacated.
That said, the New Jersey Appellate Division admitted that the family court judge did have equitable powers. This is described as “the statutory authority as well as the inherent power to direct any party in the matter to take action that reasonably serves the purposes of the Act or the court’s own jurisdictional needs.”
What does that mean exactly? The court could mandate the no-contact order as part of the companion case to avoid further problems going forward.
Domestic violence is a serious matter and often has both civil and criminal ramifications. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone to see how we can assist you in defending claims against you – or pursuing a domestic violence complaint. We have the advantage of experience in both family and criminal law proceedings.