This is a question that confronts thousands of people each year in the State of New Jersey.
The stakes are very high. If a Final Restraining Order is entered against you, there are severe consequences which include: being barred from your home, losing custody of your kids, having your firearms confiscated, and being fingerprinted, photographed and placed in the domestic violence registry.
Despite these risks, many people choose to represent themselves when they are served with a Domestic Violence Complaint in New Jersey.
The recent case of C.H. v. J.S. demonstrates the dangers that unrepresented defendants face in domestic violence cases. In that case, a former on-again, off-again girlfriend accused her ex-boyfriend of harassment—which constitutes domestic violence in New Jersey.
She said that the ex-boyfriend sent her “six or seven ranting text messages,” and that at least one of those messages “suggested” that he intended to post private videos of her on the internet.
The text messages themselves were not produced or read into the record, nor were they the subject of any detailed testimony.
The ex-boyfriend chose not to be represented by an attorney. After the alleged victim finished her testimony, the Judge asked him whether he “threatened to expose” the plaintiff “to the world.” The defendant gave a halting, ambiguous response, which the Judge interpreted as an admission. At that point, the Judge ended the hearing and entered a Final Restraining Order against the defendant without even giving him the opportunity to testify on his own behalf.
The defendant then hired a New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer, who filed an appeal. The Appellate Division does not often overturn trial court decisions—which in itself is a good reason to give serious consideration to being represented by an attorney at the trial court level.
Fortunately for the defendant, it did not take long for the Appellate Division to overturn the trial judge’s decision, based on what it deemed to be the judge’s violation of the defendant’s “fundamental due process rights.” The Final Restraining Order was vacated and the matter remanded back to a different judge for a new trial.
This case highlights the importance of having a very experienced New Jersey domestic violence lawyer represent you if you have been accused of domestic violence.
Salvaggio Law Group LLC devotes its entire practice to New Jersey Family Law matters, including Domestic Violence. If you want to talk, please call us at (973) 455-1220 or fill out the Contact Form on our website.