—–In New Jersey a person who is victim of domestic violence can seek the protection of a Final Restraining Order under the Prevention of the Domestic Violence Act. (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35.). To get a Final Restraining Order in New Jersey a party must show by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) he or she is a “victim of domestic violence,” (2) that the defendant committed a predicate act; and (3) that a restraining order “is necessary to protect the victim from an immediate danger or to prevent further abuse,”
Generally speaking the Domestic Violence Act is to be liberally construed in favor of encompassing as many victims as reasonably permitted by the Act’s language. However, not every person injured by another is entitled to the Act’s protections. To fall under the protections offered by the Act one most show they are a “victim of a domestic violence.” The term “victim of domestic violence” was originally limited to people eighteen years of age or older, or emancipated minors, who were “subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member,” as well as “a person with whom the victim has a child in common, or with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant.”
The term “victim of domestic violence,” was amended in 1994 to include “any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.” The question many have is “what is a dating relationship?” Is one date enough? Is there a set amount of time two people have to be together to qualify as a “dating relationship”?
The New Jersey Appellate Court in S.K. v. J.H. recently found that a single date in which the “parties sat together, danced together, and were together for a few hours at the bar” was not sufficient to support the finding that the parties were in a “dating relationship.” The Court in S.K.v. J.H. relied on an often used 6-question test established by Judge Michael J. Hogan in the case of Andrews v. Rutherford, the six questions are as follows:
1. Was there a minimal social interpersonal bonding of the parties over and above a mere casual fraternization?
2. How long did the alleged dating activities continue prior to the acts of domestic violence alleged?
3. What were the nature and frequency of the parties’ interactions?
4. What were the parties’ ongoing expectations with respect to the relationship, either individually or jointly?
5. Did the parties demonstrate an affirmation of their relationship before others by statement or conduct?
6. Are there any other reasons unique to the case that support or detract from a finding that a “dating relationship” exists?
The trial Judge in S.K. v. J.H. found that the one date, was enough to qualify as a “dating relationship.” However, on appeal the Appellate Court analyzed the 6 factors and found that one date was enough to qualify as a “dating relationship.”
The question still remains, what exactly is a “dating relationship”? Unfortunately, there is no bright line rule as to what is and what isn’t a “dating relationship.” The answer is very fact-sensitive and every situation is different. That is why it is advisable to consult with an attorney who can help determine whether you qualify for the protections offered under the act and can zealously advocate on your behalf.
Kevin Falkenstein recently joined the family law firm of Adinolfi & Lieberman in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Previously, Mr. Falkenstein completed a clerkship with The Honorable Anthony M. Pugliese, Superior Court of New Jersey, after receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in Justice from American University in Washington, D.C. and his Juris Doctor from Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law. His law practice is focused on all aspects of divorce and family law, including child support and custody, alimony, and domestic violence. Call 856-428-8334 to speak with Mr. Falkenstein or contact the office online.