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Jurisdiction for Domestic Violence Cases

The New Jersey Domestic Violence Statute defines domestic violence as the occurrence of certain acts inflicted upon a person by someone who is close to that person, such as a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or a household member. Typical domestic violence cases we hear about involve romantic partners. However, the domestic violence statute also covers current and former household members, so cases may involve roommates, siblings, and parents and children.

The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) does not define the term “household member” in the statute, so we must look to the court to see how they have interpreted the term. The PDVA is directed at “violence that occurs in a family of family-like setting,” and courts have used this premise to liberally construe the definition of “household member.”

Boarders in a Rooming House –S.P. v. Newark Police Dep’t

The court in S.P. v. Newark Police Dep’t held that boarders in a rooming house were household members for the purposes of the PDVA. In that case, plaintiff was sexually assaulted by a person who lived in the same rooming house. The two shared a common bathroom and kitchen in a multi-story residential building, and lived on the same floor but had separate, locked bedrooms. In determining that a household member relationship existed, the court reasoned that the shared bathroom, in which the parties presumably stored personal items, and outside of which the sexual assault took place, as well as the inevitable crossing of paths of the two placed the plaintiff in a susceptible position for violence at the hands of her attacker.

The court stated, “at the core of the PDVA is the existence of a relationship between the actor and the victim, which renders the victim a person protected by the PDVA.” It made it clear that it was not holding that all boarders in a rooming house are “household members” under the statute, but that the particular circumstances of each case must be analyzed.

Sibling Relationships - N.G. v. J.P.

In another 2012 case, a brother and sister who had not lived together since 1960 were held to be household members for the PDVA. The plaintiff received an order of preliminary restraints in 1989 and a Final Restraining Order in 1991 against her brother based on an incident in the 1960’s when he hit her over the head with a baseball bat, and in 1989 confronted and threatened her on two separate occasions. Until 2010 there was no record of conflict between the two. In 2010, the defendant began picketing outside plaintiff’s residence, pacing along her front yard yelling obscenities and giving the finger. He did this 29 separate times, each lasting 3-4 hours, according to the plaintiff. The defendant exhibited similar behavior towards his mother and another sibling, and expressed resentment toward the family.

The court reasoned that the present incidents arose directly from the parties' acrimonious family relationship and their status as former household members.

Dating Relationship - S.K. v. J.H.

Plaintiff and defendant, who had not previously met, were on a group trip to Israel when defendant attacked and severely beat plaintiff following plaintiff rebuffing defendants attempt to kiss her. Defendant received a prison sentence and restitution for the attack. Plaintiff then sought and was granted a restraining order against Defendant pursuant to the PDVA, on the grounds that they were in a “dating relationship”. The court found that under the common meaning of the terms “dating relationship,” the fact that the two parties were on the same trip and socialized on one evening did not constitute a “dating relationship” and reversed the restraining order award.

Call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation if you have any questions about domestic violence in New Jersey.


New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991
N.J.S.A 2C:25-19
Smith v. Moore, 298 N.J.Super. 121 (App.Div.1997)
S.P. v. Newark Police Dep’t, 428 N.J. Super. 210 (App. Div. 2012)
N.G. v. J.P., 426 N.J. Super 398 (App. Div. 2012)
S.K. v. J.H., 426 N.J. Super 230 (App. Div. 2012)
Hamilton v. Ali, 350 N.J.Super. 479 (Ch.Div. 2001)

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