The Intersection of Domestic Violence and Divorce in New Jersey
When spouses are heading for divorce, the likelihood of domestic violence increases as tensions rise and frustrations build, and one or both spouses feel like they are losing control of their lives. Violence or other abuses may occur. Divorce is often the final stop for a deteriorating relationship. As couples experience the world they built fall apart, strong emotions arise, aggravating resentments, anger, and insecurity. Some people lose control during arguments that turn violent or existing abusive behavior present in the relationship worsens. When domestic violence and restraining orders become part of a divorce, the divorcing parties may be unaware of the complications that result.
Dealing with domestic violence charges and/or a restraining order can have various and severe implications on divorce proceedings. Our team of domestic violence attorneys is ready to address these issues for those facing such accusations in towns in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Bergen County, Hudson County, and beyond. For confidential assistance and to speak with a lawyer in a free consultation, reach out to us at (908)-336-5008 or contact us online. Our firm’s attorneys can offer the skilled guidance and representation you need.
Implications of Domestic Violence in Divorce Proceedings
When one spouse threatens, abuses, or harms another, the victim may seek a restraining order. Two restraining orders are available for protection, a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a final restraining order (FRO). A family court judge will first order a TRO upon the petitioner victim’s application. The TRO typically contains a no-contact, property possession, and child support order, though a court may fashion the order to the needs of the applicant. Ten days later, the FRO evidentiary hearing occurs to finalize or dismiss the TRO. The judge’s decision follows the presentation of proof by the parties.
A judge will grant a TRO or FRO when the alleged perpetrator commits a crime listed in the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, such as simple assault, criminal restraint, harassment, and others, and the victim needs protection. Separately, the accused may face criminal charges in the criminal court for committing the predicate act to domestic violence and may face a jail term during the divorce proceedings. They may also be released pending their criminal trial, with a no-contact order from the criminal court forbidding contact with their spouse and children.
The consequences of a no-contact order under penalty of returning to jail complicate the divorce proceedings, which include child custody matters. A court considers many factors when deciding custody based on the best interests of children, and domestic violence affects children, even when the violence is not directed at the children. A court may consider the children safest and more likely to thrive in a home without the accused. However, a victim of domestic violence may also be under parental scrutiny when they have not defended or prevented abuse to their children.
Communication Restrictions Due to an FRO During Divorce
Additionally, an FRO will affect a divorce, especially since the restrained party must still answer to criminal charges. First, the FRO makes settlement discussions impossible except in the presence of attorneys. As a result, every detail of the divorce must be resolved through attorneys, including visitation times, drop-off locations, and even communications about being late for returning the children. No contact includes no telephone calls, texting, or emailing.
Does Domestic Violence in Divorce Prevent You from Seeing Your Kids?
It also makes child custody and visitation orders complicated. The family court must fashion an order that protects a spouse and children while still allowing visitation that is in the best interests of the children. That may mean a neutral third party or court-appointed individual acts as an intermediary on visits (if a judge believes supervision is necessary considering domestic violence allegations). Transportation exchanges between households (if the TRO required one spouse to leave the family residence) may also need a neutral exchange site.
In addition, the fact that one spouse faces criminal charges initiated by the other spouse may make the parties hostile and less likely to cooperate in a settlement. More importantly, family court judges may consider that one spouse has pending criminal charges and lives outside the family residence when deciding child custody arrangements. As a result, the judge may give the victim spouse primary or sole custody.
What Happens if You Violate a Restraining Order During Your Divorce?
Finally, violating a restraining order could place the violator in contempt and face another criminal charge that could work against them in the divorce regarding child custody, visitation, and property division. A judge may frown on disregarding a court order and mistrust that they will follow other orders, such as child custody and support orders. Additionally, their employment may be in jeopardy due to the criminal matter. To secure child and spousal support (if applicable to the latter), a court may order the other spouse more of the property in a division.
Dissolving Final Restraining Orders in Divorce Proceedings
One way to avoid the significant obstacles to divorce proceedings by an FRO is for the alleged victim to dissolve the FRO. So long as the intention to terminate the FRO is genuine and not due to undue influence or coercion, a family law judge can remove the FRO. However, the judge may review the original paperwork filed for the TRO and the FRO hearing and decide to keep the FRO. Another route is to appeal the FRO to get it reversed. However, a restraining order may not be necessary when a criminal court orders protection for the victim in the criminal proceedings.
Understanding the Permanence of FROs in Divorce Cases
When a FRO is in place during a divorce proceeding, you must understand that long after the divorce is over and settled, you are still subject to the restraining order. It is permanent until a court terminates it. As such, hiring a skilled restraining order defense attorney to help you contest the FRO at the initial hearing is imperative. You need someone with the experience and knowledge of the laws of evidence and domestic violence cases involving restraining orders that only comes with boots on the ground court room experience at final restraining order hearings. Fortunately, our team handles restraining order cases every week in New Jersey counties across the state.
Why Choose our Legal Team to Help with Your Domestic Violence Case During a Divorce in NJ
Whether you are the plaintiff or defendant, The Tormey Law Firm can help you and your family through a volatile divorce involving domestic violence allegations. Here are some of the ways that we provide skilled legal assistance to clients in the unique, high-stakes scenarios.
We can Manage Communication
Of course, divorcing parties can limit disruptive and disturbing language by limiting communication to writings conveying information only through emails or parenting apps. Our lawyers can also be the buffer between parties when communication is restricted to attorneys transmitting information. This intervention may be necessary when a restraining order is in effect. Beyond that, our lawyers can help find solutions to warring couples’ fighting and detrimental communications. Divorcing parties must communicate about kids, bills, and other practical matters, but may not know how to get past the hostility. Our attorneys can find appropriate compromises while still advocating for and defending our clients accused of domestic violence.
We can Vigorously Dispute the Allegations
Since divorces can get ugly, even spiteful enough for one party to allege domestic violence to get full custody of the children, you need an attorney to expose the alleged victim’s false allegations. Our New Jersey domestic violence lawyers will discredit witnesses in cross-examination and question your spouse to find inconsistencies in their story. Do not go to a FRO alone. Contact our experienced restraining order and criminal defense team who can represent you in domestic violence cases that arise during divorce matters.
We can Seek to Prove You Need Protection
As the one seeking protection, we can also help you obtain an FRO by supplying the court with sufficient evidence to convince them that you have a legitimate reason to fear further violence and abuse from your spouse. We can also help you get an order for staying in possession of the family residence and financial support during the divorce proceedings, besides the safety protections you need.
Call us for a free consultation at (908)-336-5008 if you have an upcoming appearance for domestic violence charges or you face a restraining order hearing in the midst of a divorce. We assist clients throughout New Brunswick, Scotch Plains, Ocean, Ridgefield Park, Garfield, Bergenfield, Totowa, and other towns in New Jersey.