The decision of Tinfow v. Tinfow,  is an appeal from a post-judgment, final restraining order, against Mr. Tinfow for entering the marital home without prior written authorization from Mrs. Tinfow.

The parties had been married for fifteen years and had two children. In 2006, the Tinfows began a bitter and litigious divorce action. Throughout the divorce, Mrs. Tinfow had exclusive possession of the marital home.   During the divorce action, and just prior, Mrs. Tinfow filed two domestic violence complaints against Mr. Tinfow. Both domestic violence complaints were settled by Consent Orders, where Mr. Tinfow agreed not to enter the marital home and would not exit his vehicle when picking up the children for visitation. Notwithstanding the Consent Orders, Mr. Tinfow allegedly continued with a pattern of entering the marital home without authorization from Mrs. Tinfow.

On October 24, 2007, while the children were home sick from school and Mrs. Tinfow was at work, Mr. Tinfow entered the marital home allegedly to bring the children lunch. While at the home, Mr. Tinfow removed previously agreed upon property. Upon arriving home and after learning of Mr. Tinfow’s presence, Mrs. Tinfow filed for a temporary restraining order, which was granted.

Before a permanent restraint can be ordered under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act there must be proof of a predicate act under the statute by a preponderance of the evidence and a showing that the restraint is necessary to protect the plaintiff due to either a single egregious act or a pattern of behavior by the defendant. See Silver v. Silver, 387 N.J. Super. 112, 126 (App. Div. 2006).

In this case, Judge Thomas P.  Zampino, sitting in Essex County, ruled that the trespass by Mr. Tinfow was the predicate act. Judge Zampino found that Mr. Tinfow had committed criminal trespass, an act constituting domestic violence under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19. Furthermore, the record showed that Mr. Tinfow’s trespass was not an isolated aberrant act, but rather part of a pattern of willful defiance of judicial Orders that was deeply unsettling to Mrs. Tinfow and threatened her right of privacy and well being.

The Appellate Division affirmed the findings by Judge Zampino, confirming the prior history between the parties, including two prior domestic violence complaints and past incidents when the Mr. Tinfow willfully entered Mrs. Tinfow’s home despite Court Orders and agreements to the contrary.

Although under ordinary circumstances, one could argue that a single entry into the former marital home, especially when the other spouse is not present and thus in no direct danger, should not constitute an act of domestic violence such that to rise to the level of a final restraining order. However, in this instance there was a repeated history of trespass into the former marital home, despite the entry of prior Orders prohibiting this conduct.

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