Previously, I have blogged on the issue of domestic violence and the NJ Prevention Of Domestic Violence Act.  Our courts have carefully scrutinized this Act and its consequences, even determining whether and under what circumstances the issuance of a final restraining order can violate one’s right to due process.  Unfortunately, the issue of domestic violence arises all too often in family courts.

The recently published Appellate Court decision of C.M.F. v. R.G.F. arose from an appeal after the trial court issued a final restraining order against an ex-husband.  The act of domestic violence in question was found to be an act of harassment committed against the ex-wife while at their child’s sporting event.  The main allegation was that the ex-husband screamed and yelled obscenities and other unpleasantries aimed towards his ex-wife.

These parties had gone through a long and tumultuous divorce.  Ironically, in 2007 they agreed to parenting time arrangement for their children.  They’d each reside in the marital home on a 50/50 basis, with one party living in the home for 3 1/2 days/week with the children and leaving 1 hour before the other party arrived and then alternating.  This system seemed to work and avoided the parties having to see each other for quite some period of time.

In January 2009, after filing motions seeking to each have sole possession of the home with the children, an order was entered granting wife possession.  The husband was to continue with the same amount of parenting time but to take place out of the marital home.  On the day the order was received, wife text messaged husband to let him know what was ordered and to advise that she’d be taking their children to their basketball game and he could pick them up there.  She would also leave the children’s overnight bag on the porch for husband’s retrieval.  At some time later that evening, husband appeared at the home and a verbal altercation began between the parties.  Wife called the police who seemingly diffused the situation at that time.

The next day, husband was present at the children’s basketball game.  Wife testified that she brought a friend to the game as she was fearful of husband’s state of mind given the events of the prior evening.  The basketball game was crowded and wife and her friend found a seat in the bleachers.  As they sat down they heard husband immediately begin to scream down “verbally abusive words”.  This lasted for some period of time.  Wife did not return home that night but the next day when she did she discovered a dead cat with its head smashed lying on the trunk of her car and the front picture window of the house shattered.  Husband denied committing these acts.  These parties had a prior history of similar types of domestic violence.

Defendant appealed the final restraining order issued by the trial court arguing that his conduct was not ‘harassment’ as defined under the statute, that he didn’t have the requisite intent to commit harassment, and that the totality of the circumstances didn’t support the entry of a final restraining order.  The Appellate Court affirmed the entry of the final restraining order.

The summarized definition of harassment under the statute is as follows:

a person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if, with purpose to harass another, he:
a. Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
b. Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
c. Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person.

In affirming the final restraining order, the Court found that husband had conceded to using offensively coarse language.  It also found that his speech invaded wife’s privacy.  The last prong, whether his purpose was to disturb, irritate or bother his wife was held to be affirmative.  Husband’s testimony that his anger over the court order was the catalyst for his outburst will not shield him from reach of the statute.  The suggestion that anger would somehow negate an intent to harass was rejected.  In this case, the nature of the verbal attack, the manner it was delivered, and the public nature of it all suggest a strong purpose to harass.

Many divorces are acrimonious.  Acrimony and anger will not excuse or negate purposeful, harassing behavior committed by one party against the other, even with a volatile divorce pending.

4 Responses to Domestic Violence Post-Divorce

In reading this blog I cannot help but become instantly upset and skeptical. As you are reading this, remember that my views only apply to those who abuse the system for their own profit and self-gain and for those who falsely accuse, not directed at those who live in real fear of another person with real grounds for pursing a restraining order.

As a victim myself of false allegations, a stepmother, as well as my husband a victim of repeated false allegations of abuse with more than one attempt by his ex-wife to obtain a restraining order, I know all too well the pure agony and torment that the falsely accused party on the other end feels, especially when it involves watching your stepson be destroyed as a result of this unjust process and abuse of restraining orders by ex-wives in order to gain leverage in a divorce.

Let’s put this first in true perspective, keeping in mind that I do not know all the details of this case, only what I am reading here and, that nobody really knows other than the parties involved – regardless of what is in court documents. Also keep in mind I am not excusing the father’s conduct at the basketball game, but simply asking everyone to think outside the box and to possibly find another perspective other than that of the “accuser”. This blog states that they had a similar history of these types of domestic violence acts, again my question is where is the evidence and proof besides “a simple allegation”? Allegations are extremely dangerous and detrimental to so many fathers and children. Allegations of abuse do not define evidence.

With the issue concering the cat being left on the car and the window being broken, my question is, where is the proof that the ex-husband committed this act? Screaming obscenities at an ex who has taken you out of your home and the lives of your children, is one thing…..smashing in a cat’s head is another. Again, as someone who has repeatedly been accused falsely as well as my husband for 3 years now with no end in sight, I tend to be skeptical when I hear these stories. I am not concerned with being politically correct, I am concerned about getting to the truth.

As is typical, the woman always gets the home and the kids and then the father is systematically forced out of his home that he worked for, helped pay for and help make into a “home” in which he shared with “his family” for the duration of his marriage. Putting aside how incredibly hypersensitive we have all become, how do you think that makes a man feel? Really….ponder this for a long time if necessary. I can tell you it does not leave a man in a healthy state and is devastating emotionally and financially. The father must now find his own place to live while paying for two households and seeing his children on a schedule dictated by his ex-wife and at her discretion. Is this fair or healthy for the children or the father? No. Again, ponder for however long it takes how this makes the father feel and the emotional state it leaves him in.

I personally knew a woman, a friend, who was shot and killed by her ex-husband and, she had a restraining order in effect. If someone who is truly dangerous wants to gain access to harm another, they will regardless of whether or not a FRO is in effect. On the other hand, those left falsely accussed with a FRO in place based on false “allegations”, have to spend the rest of their lives reclaiming their dignity, pride and hoping that one day their children will see the truth as to why they could not engage in a healthy and functional parent and child bond. With respect to this scenario, I had a family member who was found dead after falsely being accused of sexually molseting his son which then led to a pattern of harrassement against him. I have experienced both sides of this tragedy.

Although restraining orders can be useful and help protect “true victims”, more often than not the real victims are the falsely accused who are left to rebuild their lives, their sanity, their future and most importanlty their relationship with their children. The irony here is what I have found in speaking with so many fathers in this situation, of what is an epidemic, that they are systematically removed from the lives of their children, forced to work 100 hours a week just to survive and to pay for the ex, the children and the “new man” in the lives of what was once “his family”. Again, ponder how this leaves the father feeling and his state of mind. A father can be instantly removed from the lives of his children with one cry to the courts of abuse in a pending divorce or post divorce, meanwhile the ex-wife can bring a complete stranger, her new boyfriend, husband, lover, etc. into the lives of the children and absolutely no questions are asked, not even when the father, who was amazingly never issued a restraining order or domestic violence complaint while married, conveniently only post divoorce or separation, begins to question the welfare of his chidlren when exposed to this new man taking “his” place in his childrens lives. Again, ponder how this makes the father feel and what state of mind he is left in.

New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act needs to be reformed. There needs to be consequences for those who “falsely accuse”, as this is just as dangerous as those who are “justly accused”. We need to end mediators, who are not judges, being used to decide cases brought forth with concrete evidence involving custody by use of intimidation tactics, falsely telling the parties that the other will never lose custody because that just “simply does not happen” – what? Regardless of the evidence and adverse effects on the child? There needs to be consequences for those parents who make false allegations of abuse to DYFS. DYFS needs to start doing their jobs with respect to real victims, the chidlren, in this triangle and take “every” call seriously and utilize my tax dollars to protect children instead of looking at those involved in pending divorces as strictly “retaliation”. It is a good thing that they are “aware” of retaliation, but this does not excuse their lack of investigation in cases such as the one we are currently experiencing in order to get to the truth so that a “child is protected from harm”.

Enough with the ex-spouses (mostly ex-wives) abusing the system for their own self-gain. Should we not instead be questioning the “state of mind” of a mother, or parent, who is capable of lying to a policer officer, judge or other person of authority about something as serious as abuse and even having their own child call and report false allegations, teaching that child to lie about another parent? What does the future hold for that child exposed to this type of conduct?

I too know women suffering tremendously as a direct result of their husband’s conduct, and I always strive to keep gender out of the equation, but the fact is that the ratio in my experience, is about 80/20, with men being the victims far more often related to the abuse of the system related to domestic violence allegations. See, as a society we tend not to see men as victims of domestic violence, especially when the woman is short and petite and the man is big and strong – I can assure you that this is quite possible and happens every day. Remember, it is estimated that about 4% of the population are sociopaths. We have one in our life and trust me, they are capable of the most horrific abuse humanly possible, regardless of how short or fragile they cleverly appear to the “system”. The “big and tall” men are left to pay the price simply because of their “physical stature” because as a society we close our eyes to the possibilty that, yes – just maybe “petite women” can wreak havoc regardless of their “physical stature and gender”.

Although restraining orders have their benefit, they also have significant and very real devastating consequences on fathers and children, not acceptable. Cases need to be decided based on EVIDENCE and not on ALLEGATIONS, period.

Ponder the “power” given to a bitter ex by simply being able to “allege” domestic violence in a divorce scenario…it is what is the reality of my life is and the lives of countless other families, our cries remain unheard…

I often think about my own childhood and had my mother called the police everytime my dad had an outburst, he would have lived in jail and, yet – I turned out normal as did my siblings. My parents just celerated their 40th wedding anniversary. We survived. We made it through extremely difficult times . My parents did not put us through the trauma of divorce, instead they chose to work through their problems for the sanctity of their vows and for their children’s welfare.

Restraining orders should never be used a leverage in a divorce and should not be handed out like candy.

You hit the nail on the head Angela. I was thrown out of my house and kept away from my kids because of a bunch or outright and ridiculous lies by my ex-wife. I was thrown out and in a couple of weeks her boyfriend moved into my house with my 4 kids living in that house. The lies kept coming and things are getting worse every day. My life was destroyed by a evil vindictive woman.
I know a few woman that were victims of DV and they are all mad that someone can lie and make up unfounded stories and abuse the system. My children were used as weapons against me and my family was destroyed. The restraining order was used as a sword and not a shield.

i do feel pity for husbands who are falsely accused and who lose everything when a marriage goes wrong. But
I have been married to a controlling, depressed man for 25 years. everyday i walk on eggshelves that he wont have an outburst at a sports event, in the car(road rage) at restaurantsor social events. He cannot control his anger or even recognize how detrimental it is to his family and two sons. i choose not to divorce him becuase i know he would be more broken and i would fear his outbursts even more. this womans story sounds like one i would be living if i divorced my husband. she tried giving him joint ownerhip of the house. she wasn;t the one screaming and yelling at games. trust me it is hell sharing a life with these types of men. look at the statistics. 73% of men abuse and their wives never report it out of fear and pity. i hate myself for letting him get away with this behavior but i fear more what the alternative would do to our lives

Unfortunatly this happens quite often.
I was also thrown out on false allegations.
She wasn’t coming home till 3:00am and was going out with her boss.
All I did was ask where shes been for the past week and bam, phone call to the police and out the door.
The divorce was awfull, she kept firing the lawyers, and had to keep starting over.
As a result 3 years later I would have singned my death warrant to get away from the mess.
Now 10 years later she’s has remarried and has become mre vindictive than ever, and has alienated my 3 children that I raised while she was out at night.
The economy has been awful and I don’t make as much as I used to.
Twice I have been to court for a modification, once by myself and once with a lawyer and the result was the same,NO.
Basically what my point is if you are divorced in NJ and your the husband you are in for hell.
As a side note my first divorce we agreed to disagree and $2,000 later it was over and my now
30 year old daughter was always aphone call or a stop by away.
The judges are ex lawyers.
This is nothing but extra income for their buddies.
Good luck to any body stuck in NJ divorce court.

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