Victims of domestic violence often believe that they will be able to obtain a Final Restraining Order against their abuser simply because they were able to obtain the initial Temporary Restraining Order. Obtaining an FRO, however, can be more difficult than one might think in light of the necessary proofs that must be made in court. A victim must essentially prove his or her allegations by a "preponderance of the evidence" (more likely than not).
While New Jersey’s Rules of Evidence are supposed to strictly apply, the fact that these situations are oftentimes "he said/she said" versions of events can necessitate some flexibility in order to get the full story on the record. However, as the Appellate Division recently held in N.V. v. Hartman, there are limitations as to har far a Trial Court may go in relying upon certain forms of evidence.
The case involved a same-sex domestic violence dispute where N.V. alleged that Hartman had harassed her within the terms of New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. In implementing a FRO against Hartman, the Trial Court relied in large part upon phone calls that Hartman made to N.V., finding that parts of the calls were threatening to N.V.’s safety based on the tone and language of the calls themselves.
In reversing the Trial Court, the Appellate Division found that certain calls upon which the Trial Court relied were not made part of the Court record because a transcript of the calls was not entered as evidence, a verbatim record was not made of the calls played in Court, and the tape containing the calls was not marked into evidence as a Court exhibit and retained by the Court. The Appellate Division, as a result, could not determine what recordings were acctually relied upon or played for the trial judge. A new trial was Ordered as a result.
Relying on experienced counsel can help a litigant navigate through rules of evidence that can be tricky and technical. Otherwise, key pieces of evidence upon which you want to rely at a FRO hearing may be inadmissible or improperly used in making your case.