New Jersey Residents Protected by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act Without an In-Person Date
In a decision that is timely for the COVID-19 quarantine era, a New Jersey Appellate Court has ruled that a relationship conducted only through sexting qualifies as a dating relationship. In C.C. v. J.A.H., New Jersey’s Appellate Division affirmed the entry of a Final Restraining Order under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in favor of a woman who never had an in-person date with a man she met through her employment at a fitness center. The Appellate Division held that the parties could still establish an intimate relationship without ever having an in-person date. The parties met at a fitness center where the plaintiff worked and the defendant was a member. After exchanging phone numbers they exchanged test messages at all hours, many of which were sexually suggestive or explicit. They planned to meet up on several occasions but never did, never meeting outside the gym. When the plaintiff tried to break off the contact by telling the man she had no romantic interest in him, he became abusive. His vulgar, insulting, and threatening messages included threats to her employment and a civil lawsuit. Plaintiff researched and found the defendant had been convicted of harassing and stalking another woman in a similar manner and sought the protection of the Court. Defendant claimed the pair had never been in a dating relationship. The Court found that defendant had committed the predicate act of harassment and the facts established a dating relationship under the Act. The Appellate Division agreed with the trial judge that the regular exchange of intimate communications, often involving sexually explicit messages, satisfied the dating relationship requirement of the Act. If you have been subject to domestic abuse, or are accused of being an abuser, contact the Family Law attorneys at CockerillCraigMoore Law.
APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION FAMILY LAW 20-2-4352 C.C. v. J.A.H., N.J. Super. App. Div. (Rose, J.) (20 pp.) Defendant appealed from the entry of a FRO in favor of plaintiff. The parties met at a fitness center where plaintiff worked and where defendant was a member. After exchanging phone numbers, the parties exchanged numerous text messages at all hours; many messages were sexually explicit or suggestive. Defendant ultimately sent plaintiff a text message declaring his romantic interest. The parties made plans to meet up on several occasions, but each party alternatively cancelled those plans. The parties ultimately never met outside the gym. After plaintiff texted defendant to declare that she had no romantic interest in him, defendant began sending plaintiff a series of vulgar, insulting, and threatening messages, including threatening to have plaintiff fired and to file a civil lawsuit against defendant. Plaintiff researched defendant and discovered he had been convicted of harassing and stalking another woman in a similar manner. Plaintiff filed a complaint for a restraining order. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that plaintiff had failed to establish that the parties were in a dating relationship. The trial court denied defendant’s motion, finding that the facts of the case established that the parties had a dating relationship. After finding that defendant had committed the predicate act of harassment, the trial court entered the FRO. On appeal, the court affirmed the entry of the FRO, agreeing with the trial court that the parties had a dating relationship under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, noting that the parties regularly engaged in intimate communications, often involving sexually explicit messages. The court held that parties could still establish an intimate relationship without having an in-person date.