We have previously blogged about the broad protections attached to the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. However, can a victim alleging domestic violence only having occurred in another State come into New Jersey and seek the Act’s protections? The short answer is – yes. The question essentially becomes one of jurisdiction – do the New Jersey courts have the power to hear and rule on the subject matter of the case (the domestic violence alleged) as well as over the person alleged to be the aggressor?
Within recent years, the Supreme Court of New Jersey essentially established that it has jurisdiction over the acts of domestic violence itself (the subject matter) even if the only acts alleged to have occurred took place outside of New Jersey. This appears to be the case even where the purported aggressor has done nothing to pursue the victim within the State’s borders, including not showing up for any court hearing held in New Jersey with respect to the domestic violence allegations.
The question of whether the court has power over the aggressor, however, is a bit trickier, as the victim must establish that the aggressor has established "minimum contacts" with the State of New Jersey from his or her own purposeful conduct – not solely the actions of the victim. The aggressor must reasonably expect that, by his own actions, he could fairly be brought into a New Jersey court. Thus, the victim’s act of fleeing into New Jersey and alleging acts of domestic violence that occurred outside of the State is not enough to establish that New Jersey courts have personal jurisdiction over the alleged aggressor.
Despite the broad protections of the Act designed to provide aid to victims, these fundamental, constitutional notions of fairness cannot go ignored. While the victim seeks the protections of New Jersey’s law, he or she can also seek the protections of the law of the State where the alleged domestic violence occurred, without issue as to whether the court there has power over the aggressor. This way, the victim is not left without protection and the aggressor is not essentially deemed to have "purposefully availed" him or herself of the rights and privileges of every state.