The You Started Defense
Due to the personal nature of domestic violence, the outcomes of these types of cases are always fact sensitive. A New Jersey judge needs to know how the events leading to the complaint took place before he or she can reach a reasonable decision. Often both of the parties have engaged in some sort of regrettable behavior, making it difficult to easily lay blame directly on one party without knowing all of the events that led to the violence. In those cases, how should a Judge rule? In the case of R.C. v. R.W., the judge had to determine how to rule on a restraining order initiated by the aggressor of a domestic violence situation.R.C. v. R.W. The Facts of the Case
In this case, R.C. (a man) and R.W. (a woman) were in a 4 year relationship and had two children. When the parties ended their relationship, R.C. asked R.W. to move out of their shared apartment. R.W. refused, and R.C. cut off the electricity to the house to force her out. R.W. packed up her belongings and moved herself and the couple's two children to her mother’s house. R.C. soon moved out of the apartment as well. The parties proceeded through the following month with a jointly agreed to parenting schedule.
Part of the issue in this case involves some of the items that Defendant took with her when she left the shared apartment. They are:
1) Cell Phone
The cell phone was registered in R.C.’s name but was used solely by R.W. during the relationship.
A Buick was registered in the Plaintiff’s name, but both parties paid for the vehicle. It was used solely by R.W. during the relationship, R.C. had sole use of a Nissan.
3) PlayStation Game Console
R.W. purchased the PlayStation for R.C. as a gift, but soon after the purchase the children began to use it as well.
A month and a half after separating, R.C. returned the children to R.W.’s home after his parenting time. R.C. then forcibly grabbed R.W.’s cell phone out of her hands, seeking evidence to confirm his suspicion that she was in a relationship with another man. Finding evidence of communication with another man, R.C. called R.W. a whore, said that he wanted the Buick and the PlayStation back, and then picked up a brick and intentionally threw it at the Buick, shattering the rear windshield. Immediately after seeing this, R.W. threw a brick and the PlayStation at R.C.’s Nissan. R.C. then threw more bricks through a side window and the front windshield of the Buick.The Plaintiff’s Claim
Notwithstanding that he initiated the brick throwing, R.C. filed a domestic violence complaint and restraining order against R.W. He also sought custody of the children, because New Jersey law allows a court to grant temporary child custody to a victim of domestic violence. At hearings on the matter, both parties reported that other than this incident there had been no violence in the relationship.The Judge’s Ruling
The judge denied R.C.’s request for a restraining order against R.W.. The court cited Corrente v. Corrente, a case that established that an act of violence does not automatically mean a final restraining order is necessary, but rather that the court also needs to believe that the restraining order is necessary to protect the victim from ongoing harm. The judge found that the violent provocation by one party is a factor to be considered in determining whether to grant a final restraining order. Here, while R.W. did commit an act of violence towards R.C. in throwing the brick and PlayStation at his car, the judge found that a) it was in response to the previous act of violence by R.C., b) her actions were no more violent than R.C.’s, c) R.C. suffered no substantial harm, d) and that R.W. has no history of violence towards R.C.
If you have been affected by domestic violence, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation to discuss the particular facts of your case.Sources
R.C. v. R.W., ___ N.J. Super. ___ (Law Div. 2015)
Corrente v. Corrente, 281 N.J. Super 243, 248 (App. Div. 1995)