Dating Relationships

“He pops up everywhere I go; I am going to take out a restraining order against him for harassing me;” “she is calling me non-stop; I’m going to take out a restraining order against her.”

I hear these phrases all too often, from clients, from friends, and even from people on the street. They want to take out restraining orders against friends turned enemies, casual encounters turned habitual stalkers, and lovers now scorned and bitter. Often people are dismayed, however, to hear that in New Jersey, you simply cannot take out a restraining order against just anyone. Specifically, the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, enacted by the Legislature in 1991, only allows the issuance of a restraining order where a person, regardless of gender, has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member. Also included is any person, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has a child, or with whom the victim anticipates having a child, if one of the parties is pregnant as well as a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.

With regard to the “dating relationship” requirement, and indeed, generally, the Act has been construed very broadly in accordance with the Legislature’s overarching goal – namely, to protect victims against further acts of domestic violence. For instance, in J.S. v. J.F., A-2552-08, the Appellate Division held that a paid escort is a “date” under the Act. The Court elaborated upon its decision as follows:

"Experience suggests that most claims of a dating relationship turn on what the particular parties would view as a ‘date,’" wrote the Judge. "Accordingly…courts should vigilantly guard against a slavish adherence to any formula that does not consider the parties’ own understanding of their relationship as colored by socio-economic and generational influences."

While the above definition may reasonably lead to the conclusion that the definition of a “dating relationship” under the Act is boundless, recently, the Appellate Division came out with a decision to the contrary. Specifically, in last month’s decision of C.K. v. A.P., A-20-2-9851, the Appellate Division found that a “casual” relationship was not sufficient so as to constitute a “dating relationship” under the Act which would warrant the issuance of a Final Restraining Order. In C.K., the parties had a casual relationship from approximately November or December 2006, to approximately April and July 2006. At trial, C.K. testified she would "hang out" with A.P. and chitchat. A.P. testified along the same lines – i.e., that the two never dated. He stated they only had a friendship that lasted four months. They had no sexual relationship and were not intimate. After almost two years passed from the end of their relationship, in 2008, A.P. made contact with C.K. (the Appellate Division did not state what the contact consisted of), which in turn caused C.K. to take out a Temporary Restraining Order against A.P.Continue Reading Dating Relationship under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act – A Little More than Friends, Not Enough?

One of the main questions often arising in a potential domestic violence scenario is whether the victim is protected by the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.  Courts have broadly interpreted the Act’s terms to protect victims within the Act’s legislative purpose. 

For instance, a "victim of domestic violence" under the Act must be a person 18 years of age or older who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse or any other person who is a "present or former household member."  What does "former household member" actually mean?  Courts have concluded that while more than a casual dating relationship is required, the parties need not actually reside together. Continue Reading WHO CAN BE A VICTIM UNDER THE PREVENTION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT