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New Jersey Child Custody Disputes When Domestic Violence Is An Issue.

In Order To Be Successful The Retaining Of A New Jersey Private Investigator Is Essential (Part One, of Two Parts)

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When New Jersey Family Courts are considering issues of Divorce and/or Child Custody filed by a New Jersey Family Law Attorney the New Jersey Family Court will place great weight onto whether or not there is a history of domestic violence i.e., restraining orders or other types of violence within the family unit whether in New Jersey or elsewhere. When such factors are at play in a New Jersey Divorce and/or Child Custody Motion It is of the utmost importance you retain a New Jersey Private Investigator who is trained and experienced in investigating instances of domestic violence in New Jersey. The most competent, and knowledgeable New Jersey Private Investigator you can retain in order to gather and sort out historical evidence of the domestic violence is a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator with a background in New Jersey Municipal Law Enforcement where Domestic Violence Calls often seem as common as traffic infractions.

A New Jersey Private Investigator with a solid background in municipal law enforcement will have had at least eight hours of yearly training in the New Jersey Domestic Violence Laws as well as the constantly evolving Federal and New Jersey legal case law behind the New Jersey Prevention Of Domestic Violence Act. In addition, a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator with solid Municipal Law Enforcement experience attained in New Jersey Law will more often then not have had actual hands on experience in dealing with domestic violence victims, assailants and the children who have been witness to the domestic violence; to that point, myself as well as officers I have worked with over the years while in patrol could always count on having a minimum of two domestic violence responses on our patrol sheet by the end of our shift. Retaining a qualified New Jersey Private Investigator will assist you in obtaining evidence you need in order to affirm actual domestic violence or discount untruthful accusations of Domestic violence something that will often occur in order for one party to the litigation attempting to use false allegations of Domestic Violence as leverage in proceedings in a New Jersey Family Court.

In 1991 when the New Jersey Prevention Of Domestic Violence was before the state legislature the New Jersey State Legislature found domestic violence to be a serious crime and that there are thousands of persons in New Jersey who are regularly beaten, tortured and often killed by their spouses or other persons they live with. The New Jersey State Legislature found that many of the women who were assaulted are pregnant and the victims of domestic violence come from all social or economic backgrounds and ethnicities. The New Jersey State Legislature also found there to be a correlation between spousal abuse and child abuse and that the children even if they themselves are not physically assaulted will suffer lasting emotional effects from their exposure to domestic violence. For these reasons the New Jersey Legislature intended that the Prevention Of Domestic Violence Act would provide protections to victims.

The New Jersey State Legislature went much further in communicating the legislative intent of the New Jersey Prevention Of Domestic Violence Act (NJPDVA) by providing responsible criminal justice entities with the New Jersey Legislature’s expectations concerning the respective entity and their responsibilities in providing protections to domestic violence victims in New Jersey. The New Jersey Legislature advised law enforcement agencies throughout New Jersey the primary duty of a police officer when responding to a domestic violence call is to enforce all of the laws that have been violated and to protect the victim of the domestic violence. In furtherance of these responsibilities, the New Jersey Legislature has noted it is the responsibility of New Jersey Courts to protect victims of violence when it occurs in a family or family like setting by providing to the victims of this violence access not only to emergent relief but also long term civil and criminal remedies and sanctions by providing these remedies through their respective Courts. Lastly, it is intended that the official response to domestic violence in New Jersey shall put forth an attitude that violent conduct will not be excused or tolerated, it shall be made clear the fact that the criminal laws and civil remedies created under the New Jersey Prevention Of Domestic Violence Act (NJPDVA) will be enforced without regard to the fact that the violence grows out of a domestic situation.

Victims of family violence are often confused as to what factors are applied in order to place them under the umbrella of protection that the New Jersey Prevention Of Domestic Violence Act provides. Protections including but not limited to, Temporary Restraining Orders, Final Restraining Orders, Victim Notifications, Direction To Temporary Shelter as well as a host of other protections and referrals.

There is no simple way to know for sure whether or not you are covered under the New Jersey Prevention Of Domestic Violence Act (NJPDVA) when you become a victim of a crime in the confines of a domestic relationship, even police officers who have handled domestic violence in New Jersey for years sometimes become confused. First, the victim of domestic violence will need to be:

1. 18 years of age or older, or an emancipated minor who has been
subject to domestic violence by:

a. Spouse, or a former spouse, OR

b. ANY OTHER PERSON, who is a present or former household member. This can take in a whole lot of people to include brothers, sisters, uncles, boy friends, and girlfriend’s event someone you had been in a dating relationship with.

Furthermore, a domestic violence victim can even be under the age of 18 if the victim has a child in common or, if one of the parties is pregnant,

In addition, if the victim is subjected to an act of a person with whom he/she has a had a dating relationship the victim may be below the age of 18, but the domestic violence assailant MUST BE OVER THE AGE OF 18, or the assailant must be emancipated.


A minor is considered emancipated from his or her parents when the

He/She has been married;
He/She has entered military service;
He/She has a child or is pregnant; or
He/She has been previously declared by a court or an
administrative agency to be emancipated.

So, I think you can see that in New Jersey it can be quite complicated in order to even figure out if you are a victim of Domestic Violence, especially when you throw all of the above in with the ever evolving legal case law from New Jersey Courts and the Federal Court System. This confusion is normal; this is why it is imperative in a New Jersey Child Custody Case that you hire a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator with a background in Municipal Law Enforcement who would be experienced in interviewing victims as well as perpetrators of domestic violence.

Lastly, once you determine you have victim status in order to be placed under the protective umbrella of the New Jersey Prevention Of Domestic Violence Act (NJPDVA), it is required you have been a victim of one of the following crimes and or/offenses:

Homicide                          N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1
Assault                              N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1
Terroristic Threats             N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3
Kidnapping                        N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1
Criminal Restraint              N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2
False imprisonment           N.J.S.A. 2C:13-3
Sexual assault                   N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2
Criminal sexual contact     N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3
Lewdness                          N.J.S.A. 2C:14-4
Criminal mischief               N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3
Burglary                             N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2
Criminal trespass              N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3
Harassment                      N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4
Stalking                             N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10

In Part #2 of this article I will be talking about your rights as a victim of domestic violence in New Jersey. In many instances the front line protection of those rights fall onto the local New Jersey Police Officers who happen to be on duty twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and three hundred and sixty five days a year. Most New Jersey Police Officers willingly perform their duties to protect you as well as taking the proper steps in order to assist you in attaining protections which you are entitled to that are provided by the New Jersey Courts, such as Temporary Restraining Orders and other temporary relief. However, the system does not always work the way it should and occasionally you will find police officers who simply do not want to take the time to do their job and will improperly discourage New Jersey domestic Violence Victims from seeking a hearing before a New Jersey Court in order to have a Judge decide whether or not a Temporary Restraining Order will be issued. In my twenty-seven years as a Police Supervisor in Jersey City (second most populous City in New Jersey) I have had the occasion to see far to many officers attempt to shirk their duties in assisting victims in attaining relief, what could their motivation possibly be? More often than not the officers simply wanted to avoid the arduous administrative paperwork and other procedures involved in assisting a victim attaining the relief he or she needs and is entitled to. On more occasions then I would like to admit I often had to counsel and train officers it was not their responsibility to decide if a temporary restraining order would issue but a decision for a New Jersey Court to decide. I will soon post Part Two in which I will explain your rights and the responsibilities the police have in assisting you in obtaining the protections of the New Jersey Prevention Of Domestic Violence Act.

For more info, please visit our Child Custody page.


If you wish to speak with me regarding this article, or if you need a consultation regarding it’s contents please do not hesitate to call me at 732-837-8444, seven days a week 8:00am to 8:00pm.

About the author: Bob Cowan is the owner of Cowan Investigations a full-service New Jersey Private Investigations Firm, Bob is the former Chief of the Jersey City Police Department and has 35 years of experience as a police officer.

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