New Jersey Superior Court (Appellate Division)

This is not a perfect world we live in and few of us are perfect and free from vices.  There is, however, a difference between imperfections and either addiction and/or mental illness that could impair a person’s ability to parent their children.  Often, when these issues arise, we try to build safeguards into agreements to protect the children where there is a history of alcoholism, drug abuse or significant mental illness.

These are always tricky cases because the infirm party often (1) is in denial or at least downplays the severity of the issue, (2) doesn’t want their problem in writing in a written agreement; (3) there is no agreement as to whether there even is a problem; etc. As such, there are times that we do our best to put as much teeth as possible into agreements to avoid the cost of trial, not over the actual parenting time, but the protections to be put in place when someone falls off the wagon.  With compromise, however, comes the chance, not necessarily of actual risk to the children (thought that certainly is possible too) but the possibility of putting the kids in danger and being left to fix a problem after damage has been done.

The title of this post is came to me after reading the Y.A.B. v. A.C.B. unreported Appellate Division decision released on November 28, 2012.  In that case, despite evidence that he former husband, who had acknowledged alcohol issues, may have been drinking  (private investigator reports showing him buying alcohol, Facebook pictures of him holding a beer and a Certification from an ex-girlfriend regarding the husband’s alcohol use), and protective language in the agreement, not only was his parenting time not meaningfully curtailed, but the ex-wife was seriously chastised for bringing her application.Continue Reading If Parenting Time is Going to Be Conditioned on Both Sobriety and Total Abstinence, The Agreement Better Say So

The times, they are a’changing – at least when it comes to how the judicial system approaches harassment as an act of domestic violence in light of advanced technology used for communication.  In the newly reported (precedential) Appellate Division decision of L.M.F. v. J.A.F., Jr., the Court addressed the use of electronic communications, specifically text messages, as a form of harassment.  Those claiming an act of harassment based on electronic communications might not like what the Appellate Division had to say, as detailed further below, but the decision provides a breadth of noteworthy language in shaping what is an extremely sound, rationale and common sense methodology to approach such cases in the future.

As a refresher, harassment is defined by New Jersey statute 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.

Addressing the struggles faced by courts in addressing harassment as an act of domestic violence, the Appellate Division noted

The facts presented here exemplify the complexity of human interactions and the strain they place on the Family Part judges as they struggle to distinguish between the cases that merit judicial intervention and those that do not.

Further addressing such difficulties in the context of modern technology and the facts at issue, the Court first provided an online definition of “texting” from as:

[t]he act of typing and sending a brief, electronic message (less than 160 characters) via a wireless network to another person so that they can view the short message on any number of mobile or handheld devices.Continue Reading The Use of Modern Technology as a Form of Domestic Violence – The Appellate Division Weighs In