Domestic violence remains a prevalent issue in every demographic in the United States and is non-discriminate to age, sex, gender, marital status, or number of children. Domestic abuse occurs in many forms and is not strictly limited to physical, emotional, and sexual violence.

Tragically, more than 70,000 people each year report partner physical and emotional abuse in New Jersey, and countless more suffer in silence. Domestic violence can affect your divorce in many ways in New Jersey. 

What Is Domestic Violence?

The U.S. Department of Justice defines domestic violence as abusive behaviors one partner employs to maintain power and control over the other. The offending spouse can use physical, sexual, emotional, financial, psychological, or cyber actions or threats as coercive behavior to influence the other in an intimate relationship, including:

  • Blaming
  • Coercing
  • Frightening
  • Intimidating
  • Isolating
  • Manipulating
  • Humiliating
  • Terrorizing
  • Threatening
  • Hurting, injuring

The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (NJPDVA) protects against domestic violence and domestic abuse to anyone over the age of 18 experiencing domestic abuse from a current or former spouse, dating partner, household member, biological or adoptive parent, or prospective co-parent if either is pregnant. The NJPDVA identifies and includes the following types of domestic violence crimes:

  • Assault
  • Burglary
  • Contempt of a restraining order
  • Crimes involving risk of death or serious bodily injury
  • Criminal coercion
  • Criminal mischief
  • Criminal restraint
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Criminal trespassing
  • Cyber harassment
  • False imprisonment
  • Harassment
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Lewdness
  • Robbery
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Terroristic threats

How Does Domestic Violence Impact Divorce in New Jersey?

New Jersey recognizes both fault-based and no-fault divorces. In cases involving domestic violence, the filing spouse may cite “extreme cruelty” as the grounds for divorce, which can affect property division, alimony, child custody, and child support.

When the divorce is based on abuse, many who fear continued or worsening abuse after filing seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the alleged abuser, which can influence the divorce proceedings significantly.  

The purpose of the TRO is to remove the alleged abuser from the situation and prevent them from the home, place of employment, children’s schools, and any other location where the other spouse may be. It is also designed to prevent the alleged abuser from contacting the spouse by any means, including by phone, text message, email, or any other method. To ensure safety, the TRO also requires the alleged abuser to remain a specific physical distance from the other partner, children, and other family members.

Additionally, divorce mediation, a popular alternative to resolve issues and reach a peaceful settlement agreement, is strictly forbidden when domestic violence is involved in the divorce.

A domestic violence TRO can influence the divorce outcome, as the court must weigh such issues as living arrangements, future contact with the victim and children, and which spouse will retain the property based on the abuse history and the TRO. Depending on the circumstances and severity of the abuse, the judge may grant a permanent restraining order.

If you possess any evidence of the abuse, such as photos of the physical injuries, medical reports documenting injuries, texts, voicemails, letters, emails, and any other items documenting abuse, provide it to your lawyer. There may be an investigation to determine the validity of the charges with or without evidence; however, any you can provide will significantly benefit your case and assist in the court’s decisions.

How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, charges of domestic violence in divorce can significantly affect child custody. The court may find the alleged abuser to be a risk to children, even if they have no history of violence or harm against them, which can influence the court’s decision regarding visitation and both types of custody.

Many factors are considered when determining child custody when charges of domestic violence are present, such as:

  • TRO: If an active TRO exists, the child visitation rights of the spouse named in the order must be considered and determined. As the TRO restricts contact and distance between spouses, the court may require law enforcement to accompany the alleged abuser to pick up the children at the residence belonging to the alleged victim.
  • Temporary custody: In domestic violence charges, the court may award temporary child custody to one parent until more details regarding abuse can be determined.
  • Investigation: To understand the type and severity of abuse, the court may request an investigation.
  • Education: Depending on the severity of the alleged abuse, the court may order the offending parent to complete anger management or parenting classes.
  • Parental rights: In cases of severe domestic violence, the court may remove the alleged abuser’s custody rights permanently.

Our New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC Help Domestic Violence Survivors Safely Seek Divorce

In domestic violence situations, your and your children’s safety is imperative. Our New Jersey divorce lawyers at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC will assist you with protection throughout the divorce proceedings. Call 732-494-6099 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Metuchen, New Jersey, we serve clients in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Union County, and Somerset County.