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On November 8, 2017, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued the unpublished opinion in the domestic violence case of J.R. v. C.R. (A-4936-15) affirming the issuance of a final restraining order (FRO) entered against J.R. who was in a dating relationship with C.R. Here, C.R. obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the grounds of harassment and assault based upon an alleged predicate act of domestic violence that occurred on February 29, 2016.  The parties testified that although they had broken off their relationship several times, they were involved in a long-term dating relationship.

New Jersey courts have ultimately taken a liberal view on what constitutes a “dating relationship”. In the case of Tribuzio v. Roder, 356 N.J. Super. 590 (App. Div. 2003), which involved a three year gap in the dating relationship, the Court held that: “The ultimate issue is whether, in light of these facts, the victim was, at the time of the precipitating event, subjected to potential abusive and controlling behavior related to and arising out of the past domestic relationship. If so, the victim is in need of and entitled to the special protection provided by the act.” Id. at 597. Perhaps no other case illustrates the court’s trend towards looking at a “dating relationship” liberally than in the case of J.S. v. J.F., 410 N.J. Super. 611 (App. Div. 2009), wherein the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the victim did not fall under the protections of the Act because she was a paid escort. The court reasoned, “[T]he fact that a person receives a monetary benefit from engaging in a relationship does not automatically disqualify that person from the Act’s benefits.” Id. The court went on to state: “…the facts should be liberally construed in favor of finding a dating relationship, because the Act itself is to be liberally construed in favor of the legislative intent to eradicate domestic violence. Stated another way, the Act embodies a strong public policy against domestic violence. . . . These principles would not be served by a cramped interpretation of what constitutes a dating relationship.” Id.

At trial, the victim testified that her boyfriend phoned her at least fifty times and sent her more than fifty text messages on February 29. She did not respond.  The defendant drove to her work, and when she walked into the parking lot the defendant assaulted her, began yelling at her, grabbed her and forcibly dragged her to the car. The defendant testified that he was just picking her up from work and that it was the plaintiff who was the aggressor. He said that she punched and kicked him. He alleged that she kicked his car and tore off the side view mirror. Both parties testified that there was a history of physical altercations. The boyfriend did not file a domestic violence complaint after the incident.  file0001931487912-290x300

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file0001610872997-212x300Marriage is not as popular as it once was.  Based on 2011 data available to the Pew Research Center, barely half of all adults in the United States were married, which was a record low.  In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married.  Contrast that with 2011, where only 51% of adults aged and 18 older were married.  In addition to higher incidences of divorce and cohabitation  in this century, as compared to 1960, another significant reason for the decline in the overall number of married adults, is that people do not marry as young now as they did in 1960.   More people wait until they are older to get married.  In 2011, just 20% of adults in the United States between the ages 18 to 29 were married, compared with 59% in 1960, according to the same research by the Pew Research Center. In 2011, the average age for first-time brides was 26.5 years, and for first time grooms the average age was 28.7 years.

Generally, the age at which persons in the United States can get married without parental consent or a judicial order is 18 (In Mississippi, a person has to be 21 to marry without parental consent).  The states do, however, have loopholes allowing minors under the age of 18 to marry. Only half of the states, however, have NO minimum age at which a child can be married.  According to Reuters, about 170,000 minors were married between 2000 and 2010 in 38 of the 50 states where data was available.

Currently, the minimum age to enter into a marriage or civil union in New Jersey is 18.  As other states do, New Jersey has exceptions wherein a minor can still marry.   Minors who are 16 or 17 can marry if they have parental consent.  Minors below the age of 16 can marry if they have the permission of a judge.  A judge can allow a minor of any age to marry; there is no absolute bar on a child of any age being permitted to marry.  One would hope that a court would not allow a literal child to marry, but in other states, children have indeed been given permission to marry.   According to the New Jersey based nonprofit group “Unchained at Last“,  3,499 minors (90% of whom were girls) were married between 1995 and 2012, including 178 who were younger than 15 years old.  New Jersey also has no statutory particular criteria or factors in its statute for a family court judge to assess in determining whether a minor should be permitted to marry.

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In my last blog post I noted that effective September 1, 2017 a number of Court Rules directly impacting upon Family Part practice had been approved by our Supreme Court. I summarized and discussed a number of those Amendments. In this blog post , I will summarize and discuss two of the most significant and substantive new Rules which were adopted in this current cycle. Continue reading

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For many years Palimony actions were proliferating. Spurned on by the original landmark palimony case filed against actor Lee Marvin by his former girlfriend in California. palimony actions gave e3bc10d77963468f2705f7119c049b73-300x199 hope that people (usually women) in long term relationships without marriage would have some financial rights when the romantic relationship went sour. Palimony served a useful social function to level the proverbial social playing field once the concept of “common law marriage” was eliminated. For Palimony created legal right of support in situations were there was no legal marriage but there was a promise of support. Continue reading

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It is not unusual to question whether a litigant seeking a final domestic violence restraining order is permitted to testify about a prior domestic violence restraining order that was dismissed whenfile000388004075-1-200x300 outlining a couple’s prior history of domestic violence for a court.    In M.D. v. P.D.(A-2054-15T, October 13, 2017), an  unpublished opinion decided this week, the Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s decision to allow the plaintiff to testify about the acts of domestic violence that were in a previous domestic violence complaint that had been voluntarily dismissed when the parties entered into a consent order agreeing to impose civil restraints against the defendant. Continue reading

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Despite the recent heat wave, Fall has arrived. Besides the presumably cooler weather, when the calendar hits September, we can always look forward to a number of things – school starts, rush hour traffic resumes, shorter days, etc. However, for us lawyers September brings with it the annual amendments that have been approved by our Supreme Court to the Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey. Unlike last year, a number of these recent Rule Amendments directly impact upon Family Part Practice. A number were in response to statutory changes that recently went into effect. In light of the number involved, I will summarize and discuss these Amendments over the course of several blog posts. Continue reading

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e3bc10d77963468f2705f7119c049b73-300x199On September 20, 2017 the New Jersey Appellate Division approved a domestic violence case for publication the matter of L.C. v. M.A.J. (A4933-15T2), in which the Appellate Division addressed the use of pre-trial in limine motions, which are pretrial motions commonly used to request the court to make legal determinations about evidence before trial, to seek an eve of trial dismissal of a litigant’s pleadings. Continue reading

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I would like to begin this blog post by thanking all those who are currently serving in the United States military and to all Veterans  that have served. Currently, there are approximately 22 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces and 1.5 million currently serving. On September 15, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling potentially affecting their military families. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in May, 2017, in the case of Howell v. Howell (No.15-1037) that a state court may not order a veteran to indemnify a divorced spouse for the loss in the divorced spouse’s portion of the veteran’s retirement pay caused by the veteran’s waiver of retirement pay to receive service-related disability benefits. Continue reading

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Summer is over. The kids are back in school. The normal routine has returned to your life.  This is a comparatively calm time for most households. There are fewer stressors, a little more “me time”0HFF1UYS9S-300x200
and a lot less “rock ‘n roll” than during the summer.  It is a good time to take stock of where you are, what you have accomplished and for those with marital difficulty the State of the Union. Continue reading

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When one thinks of acts domestic violence usually physical and verbal abuse come to mind. However, actions that involve the destruction of the property of another are often overlooked. file000596791788-239x300Destroying your significant other’s property falls under New Jersey statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3(a)(1), which provides that an individual is guilty of criminal mischief if he or she “[p]urposely or knowingly damages tangible property of another.” Stated another way, when one sets fire to their significant other’s clothes a la “Waiting to Exhale” or their house a la Left Eye from TLC, these are acts of domestic violence and could lead to the filing of a temporary restraining order and the entry of a final restraining order. Continue reading