Can I obtain a Final Restraining Order Against Someone I Never Physically Dated In Person?

The New Jersey Appellate Division recently found that it was appropriate to enter a Final Restraining Order under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act against a defendant where the parties never experienced a single in-person date, never visited each other’s homes, never met each other’s friends or family members, never engaged in sexual relations, never kissed, and never even held hands. C.C. v. J.A.H., No. A-4425-18T3, 2020 N.J. Super. LEXIS 52, at *11 (Super. Ct. App. Div. May 4, 2020).

In some circumstances, in order to obtain a Final Restraining Order under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (hereinafter the “Act”), a victim must first prove that the Act applies to the relationship the victim has with the defendant. Where the parties were never married or never resided in the same home, the Court is not able, by law, to issue a final restraining order. Under the Act, the victim must first prove a “dating relationship” existed between the parties. See N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(d).

To determine whether the parties’ have or had a “dating relationship” the Court must consider the following factors:

  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?

S.K. v. J.H., 426 N.J. Super. 230, 235 (App. Div. 2012).

However, the Court looked beyond the factors set forth in S.K. and determined that, “….dating is a loose concept undoubtedly defined differently by members of different socio-economic groups and from one generation to the next.” C.C. v. J.A.H., No. A-4425-18T3, 2020 N.J. Super. LEXIS 52, at *9 (Super. Ct. App. Div. May 4, 2020) citing J.S. v. J.F., 410 N.J. Super. 611, 614 (App. Div. 2009). The Appellate Division also provided that the factors set forth in S.K. must not be rigidly applied when determining whether a dating relationship exists and recommended that trial judges “consider the parties’ own understanding of their relationship as colored by socio-economic and generational influences.” Id at 9-10 citing J.S., Supra. 614. The Appellate Division further found that when deciding whether the parties had a dating relationship under the Act, “…the court must view the facts through the prism of the State’s strong public policy against domestic violence.” Id citing J.S., Supra 614.

The Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s finding that a dating relationship in fact did exist where their relationship was demonstrated “…by the intensity and content of their communications, including the exchange of nearly 1300 highly personal text messages.” C.C. v. J.A.H., No. A-4425-18T3, 2020 N.J. Super. LEXIS 52, at *2 (Super. Ct. App. Div. May 4, 2020). The Appellate Division further stated that, “…the volume and intensity of text message communications can establish a dating relationship, even in the absence of a traditional in-person date.” Id at 15.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and has questions about obtaining a final restraining order under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, please contact my office at (908) 575-9777. At Lyons & Associates, P.C., we pay personal attention to personal matters and specialize in all facets of family law and are uniquely suited to handling such matters.

By: Mark Gabriel, Esq.