The recent act of domestic violence by singer Chris Brown on his very famous girlfriend, Rihanna, has brought new attention to the fact that domestic violence is not a socio-economic problem limited to the lower class.  Unfortunately, I often see the ugly side of relationships and not surprisingly domestic violence is an issue I also deal with.   New Jersey is attempting to help protect victims of domestic violence by protecting  the victims essentially from themselves.

A new law that is pending in the New Jersey Senate would require that if a victim of domestic violence desired to dissolve or modify a final restraining order, a court would be required to make a finding and a record.  Assembly, No. 746, State of New Jersey, 213 Legislature.  Anyone who has been following the Chris Brown/Rihanna saga will tell you that within days of the incident where Chris Brown physically assaulted Rihanna, they were back together as a couple. (They have since split.) Unfortunately this is often the case.  Sometimes, it takes victims of domestic violence years to escape the cycle of abuse.

In New Jersey  a victim of domestic violence can apply for a temporary restraining order at a county courthouse or at a police station by applying to a municipal judge.  Once a temporary restraining order is issued either a hearing is held where it becomes final or it is dismissed.  (The temporary restraining order can also be resolved through negotiations amongst the parties if there is an active divorce or other family court action pending – however, the resolution will not have the same protections and enforcement rights that a domestic violence restraining order does.)

If the temporary restraining order becomes final, but the parties later reconcile and desire to modify or dissolve the final restraining order, the new law would require the parties to return to court.  In court a judge would create a record to make sure that the victim was not making the request under duress or coercion.  The new law would also require that the victim be aware of the consequences of modifying or dissolving the order.   Finally – and probably most importantly – the new law would allow a victim of domestic violence to reinstate a final restraining order even if there is no additional act of domestic violence.  This means that if parties to a domestic violence final restraining order dissolved the order and reconciled the relationship, the victim could reinstate the final restraining order at any time – even if there were no additional acts of domestic violence.

If this bill is passed, what happens in those instances where an individual is falsifying an act of domestic violence in order to get an advantage in the divorce action or to have the other party removed from the residence?  Unfortunately, there are instances where the Prevention Against Domestic Violence Act is abused by individuals who falsify claims of domestic violence for just these reasons.  It would appear that in a case where the claims have been falsified, under this new proposed legislature, the other party could essentially be held hostage by the threat of returning to court and imposing restraints.  It seems to me that the legislature may need to add more  protections to ensure the law is not abused.

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