New Jersey Domestic Violence Laws

Note: If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.

What is Domestic Violence in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, domestic violence is the actual or threatened physical, sexual, emotional, or economic abuse of an individual by someone with whom they have or have had an intimate relationship. Abuse in intimate relationships is very common and most often women are the victims, but men can be abused, too. There are a number of separate offenses which are linked by the fact that one member of a family or household is harming one or more of others.

Specifically, 14 criminal offenses upon a person are prohibited under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) of 1991:

  • Homicide,
  • Assault,
  • Terrorist threats,
  • Kidnapping,
  • Criminal restraint,
  • False imprisonment,
  • Sexual assault,
  • Criminal sexual contact,
  • Lewdness,
  • Criminal mischief,
  • Burglary,
  • Criminal trespass,
  • Harassment, or

In domestic violence cases, the plaintiff is a person who seeks or has been granted relief under the PDVA. The defendant is a person at least 18 years old or emancipated who is alleged to have committed or who has been found to have committed an act of domestic violence under the PDVA. The parties must have had a specific relationship at present or in the past.

What Protections Are Available in Addition to Criminal Prosecution?

There are several remedies and legal protections available for victims of domestic violence in New Jersey. These include:

  • Address Confidentiality Program (ACP): Victims can get a legal substitute address (usually a post office box) to use in place of their physical address; this address can be used whenever an address is required by public agencies. First class mail sent to the substitute address is forwarded to the victim's actual address.
  • Protective Orders: Victims of domestic violence can apply for a protection from abuse (PFA) order (ADD LINK TO NEW JERSEY PROTECTIVE ORDER ARTICLE), a court order signed by a judge that offers protection to victims.
  • Civil lawsuit: The victim may file a civil lawsuit to recover losses and expenses such as medical bills or pain and suffering damages.
  • Custody/child or spousal support orders: These may be modified to prevent any further incidence of violence between spouses, children, or other persons.

The following table highlights the main provisions of New Jersey's domestic violence laws (New Jersey Domestic Violence Act). See How to Stop Domestic Violence and Filing a Domestic Violence Lawsuit for more information.

Code Sections N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq.
What Protections are Available?

Civil and criminal

Definition of Domestic Violence

See Above

Family/Household Member Relationship Requirement

The relationship between the two people must be one of the following: marriage; separation; divorce; living together in the same household at present or in the past; a person whom the plaintiff has dated or a person with whom the plaintiff has a child in common or anticipates having a child in common.

Penalties

May be a felony or misdemeanor depending on the abuser's conduct and the underlying charges. Factors such as prior offenses or history of domestic violence help determine the severity of the punishment. Sentence may also include a restraining or protective order.

Types of Protective Orders Available

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Final Restraining Order

Elder Protection

The elderly or disabled can be victims of domestic violence. Abusers of elderly disabled persons tend to be close relatives, such as adult children involved in caring for the victims or persons who have a professional care giving relationship with the victim. For information regarding criminal acts or omission to act against the elderly or disabled, including criminal neglect of the elderly or disabled. See N.J.S.A. 2C:24-8.

Seizure of Weapons

If a police officer at the scene has reason to believe a weapon was used during an act of domestic violence, the officer must arrest the suspect and seize any weapons on the premises that could expose you to further harm.
Seized weapons are turned over to the county prosecutor’s office. If the prosecutor does not institute a legal action within 45 days to retain the weapon(s) seized, they may be returned to the owner.

Age Requirement

Both parties must be 18 or older or an emancipated minor.

 

Resources

Because domestic laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced domestic violence attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.