As technology progresses, the use of it rears its head during divorce cases.  One such form of technology is the use of a GPS in a spouses vehicle.  In a reported (precedential) opinion decided on July 7, 2011, in the case of Villanova vs. Innovative Investigations, the Appellate Division affirmed a trial court’s granting of summary judgment, effectively dismissing a husband’s invasion of privacy claim.

In this case, the wife , in the midst of divorce proceedings, hired a private investigator to follow her husband.  The private investigator later suggested that the wife put a GPS device in the family vehicle driven by the husband and she did.  She later used the findings in the divorce case.  During the divorce case, the husband amended his divorce pleading to seek invasion of privacy damages against the wife.  He also tried to add the defendant’s in this case, the private investigator as a defendant in the divorce case but the court would not allow that.  The husband ultimately abandoned his tort claim against the wife in their settlement but reserved his rights to pursue his claim against the private investigator.

The invasion of privacy claim in the case against the private investigator was ultimately dismissed because the court found that there is no expectation of privacy driving over public roads. Continue Reading Appellate Division Finds that Putting GPS in Spouse's Car was Not an Invasion of Privacy

This post was written by Melissa M. Ruvolo, a new Family Law associate, in our Roseland office, and soon to be an official contributior to this blog.

Our blog frequently features discussions regarding what constitutes domestic violence to warrant the issuance of a Final Restraining Order (FRO). Perhaps the most frequently alleged “predicate act of domestic violence” is harassment under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4. What may constitute “harassment” was recently raised in the unpublished Appellate Division decision of A.B. v. L.S.M. decided on May 6, 2011.

The parties were unmarried but had been living together for almost four years. They had two daughters – a 3-year old and a 22-month old. During an argument, the defendant called the plaintiff a “b-tch” and the plaintiff admitted she may also have cursed and yelled at him. The defendant attempted to leave the home but while doing so, got a flat tire. When he tried to fix it with a car jack, the plaintiff twice tried to remove the jack from under the car and the defendant pushed her shoulders each time. She threw the daughter’s sippy cup at his face and broke his nose. Both parties applied for temporary restraining orders, which were dismissed. The defendant eventually moved out of the home and parenting time was ordered by the Court.

Two months later, the defendant went to the plaintiff’s home and knocked on her bathroom window, pleading to speak with her. The plaintiff refused. On the way home from plaintiff’s house, the defendant sent her an apologetic text message stating that he had no idea how much he had hurt her and would leave her alone.

Several days later, when the defendant went to the plaintiff’s home to pick up the children for parenting time, he asked to speak with her. He told her he “really missed her” and wanted to “hug and kiss her.” She responded that she didn’t want to talk to him or “have him touch her.” Later that evening, the defendant sent a text message to the plaintiff claiming the children forgot a teddy bear and blanket. She offered to bring them to his home and he agreed. When the plaintiff arrived at the defendant’s front door, he told her the children were already asleep, leading her to believe that the entire incident was a ploy to get her there. According to the plaintiff, the defendant grabbed her to prevent her from leaving and she told him not to touch her. The plaintiff’s friend, who was waiting in the car, witnessed the defendant give the plaintiff an unwanted “bear hug.”Continue Reading Domestic Violence: Bad Haircuts and an Unwanted Hug Can Constitute Harassment

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.Continue Reading Domestic Violence Post-Divorce

“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?

When can one’s well intentioned conduct cross the line into a form of domestic violence under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act?  That was the question addressed by the Appellate Division in P. O’D v. J. O’D, where it affirmed the trial court’s entry of a final restraining order against the defendant mother under the PDVA based on the trial court’s finding that the wife harassed her ex-husband.  Two children were born of the marriage, and the parties’ Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) provided that the parties would equally share residential custody (2 or 3 weekdays and alternating weekends). 

The husband testified during a final hearing on a prior temporary restraining order that, starting in September 2007 for a 3-month period, the wife started calling him late at night and using profanity during their conversations. According to his testimony, there were a series of phone calls where the wife would keep calling until he would answer the phone. He further alleged, and the wife did not deny, that she started abusing alcohol at this time. On one night within the 3-month period, the wife threatened the husband’s well-being during her phone calls. A couple of days later, the husband was notified by the wife’s boyfriend that the children were in danger and that the husband should take them from her mother’s custody, which he did successfully. 


When does electronic surveillance of another person constitute a violation of the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act?  That was the question recently tackled by the Appellate Division in its unpublished decision, Kebea v. David.  The unmarried couple at issue was living together when, one evening, they got into a heated argument and Kebea told David to leave the apartment.  Kebea obtained a Temporary Restraining Order after David returned to the apartment and removed a few items he had purchased.  She ultimately voluntarily dismissed the TRO against David, who then purchased a software program by which he could learn about the contents of her emails to determine if she would lie to him about an ex-boyfriend so that he could end the relationship if he felt necessary.
Continue Reading Electronic Surveillance – An Act of Domestic Violence?

The Appellate Division recently presented in an unreported decision an educational primer on the criminal act of “harassment” under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35 (the “Act”), in Curry v. Curry, found here. In ultimately dissolving a Final Restraining Order entered by the trial court, the Appellate Division found that the evidence only established the existence of “domestic contretemps” during the course of a troubled marriage, insufficient to prove that harassment occurred under the Act. In so doing, the Appellate Division thoroughly reviewed the legislative purpose of the Act, how to establish harassment, and how the Act is not designed to protect against the common emotional difficulties that arise between parties during the course of a dissolving marriage. 

The factual scenario was relatively common – an argument occurred between a married couple when the husband believed that he had found direct evidence of the wife’s infidelity. The wife obtained a Temporary Restraining Order against the husband and, after a hearing, the trial court entered a Final Restraining Order against him, finding that he committed harassment under the Act. 

 Continue Reading Appellate Division Provides Primer on Harassment Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act