By Carolyn N. Daly Esq.
Do you have a “Sexting” Partner? If so, the Appellate Division says you could be in a “Dating Relationship” under the NJ Prevention of Domestic Violence Act
Want to obtain a restraining order in New Jersey? The appellate division made that a little easier with a published decision in C.C. v. J.A.H., released on May 4th.
First, a little background: you cannot simply obtain a restraining order in New Jersey against a stranger. Restraining orders, in a non-criminal case, are issued under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, and, in order to obtain one, you must be a “victim of domestic violence.” Pursuant to New Jersey Statute 2C:25-19d, a “Victim of domestic violence’ is defined as:
“…a person protected under this act and shall include any person who is 18 years of age or older, or who is an emancipated minor and who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present household member or was at any time a household member. “Victim of domestic violence” also includes any person, regardless of age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has a child in common, or with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant. “Victim of domestic violence” also includes any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.
It is the context of a dating relationship that the court had to address in C.C. Did the relationship in this case constitute a dating relationship?
Testimony by C.C. revealed that the parties met in 2018 at a fitness center. Plaintiff, a 22 year-old gym manager, engaged in frequent conversations with the Defendant, who was 42 and a member at the gym. The conversations became more intimate, and in September, the two began to text each other. The messages included a number of “sexts,” or sexually explicit messages. Although the two discussed meeting up, they never did. In November, Plaintiff advised she just wanted to be friends. At that point, Defendant became aggressive and threatening and started harassing Plaintiff. Plaintiff then sought a domestic violence temporary restraining order and was granted one.
At the hearing to obtain a Final Restraining Order (FRO), Defendant argued that the parties were not in a dating relationship and Plaintiff therefore could not obtain a restraining order under New Jersey law. The judge disagreed, and, after conducting a hearing, granted Plaintiff an FRO. Defendant appealed.
The appellate court ultimately agreed with the trial judge that the relationship in this case constituted a dating relationship. The court reasoned that despite never engaging in a sexual relationship or, indeed, going on a single in-person “date,” the sexually explicit conversations between the parties turned their relationship into that of the dating variety. In fact, the court held this was more of a dating relationship than two individuals who had actually been on a date (albeit only a single one). The difference between the two, the court noted, was that the parties in this case had known each other for several months and engaged in profoundly intimate conversations.
This decision is particularly interesting in light of present circumstances, during the COVID-19 pandemic. As relationships take place online, rather than in person, victims should take note that even if there is not a single in person date, a lengthy on-line intimate relationship can still be considered a “dating relationship,” provided it advances far enough, and they are thus, protected by New Jersey law from acts of domestic violence.
If you need an attorney, or have any questions about the issues raised in this article, we encourage you to reach out to Daly & Associates at (973) 292-9222. We are here for you during this difficult time.