All too often women believe that unless they have experienced physical harm they have no legal recourse against a spouse’s abusive behavior. This is far from the truth. Under New Jersey law, domestic abuse may take the form of emotional or psychological harm as well, including behavior that is threatening, intimidating or manipulative.
The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act recognizes 19 separate offenses that constitute abuse. In addition to physical abuse and criminal acts, the law includes threatening activities, such as stalking, harassment or making violent threats.
Getting a restraining order
Whether an individual lives with her abuser or experiences threatening communication or harassment from an ex-partner, a restraining order provides a range of legal protections. The first step is filing for a temporary order with the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court. If the court approves the request, the order may forbid the abuser to do the following:
- Go to the plaintiff’s home, workplace or other locations
- Communicate with or coerce another to communicate with the plaintiff in person, in writing or electronically
- Stalk, follow or threaten the plaintiff or others close to the plaintiff, including mutual children
- Be in possession of firearms or other weapons
The order may also grant the plaintiff sole possession of the residence and temporary custody of any children. Additionally, the court may require the abuser to pay emergency financial relief and temporary child support.
Once a temporary restraining order is in effect, the court will arrange a hearing within 10 days to determine whether to issue a final restraining order and what the terms of that order will be. The court distributes copies of both temporary and final restraining orders to local law enforcement.
Regaining a sense of security and independence
Verbal violence, manipulative or coercive behavior, and psychological abuse in a marriage can do untold damage to the entire family — particularly when a toxic situation continues for years. Women should know that even if they have not experienced physical harm New Jersey law offers legal protections that may help them to re-establish control over their lives.