What Exactly Constitutes Domestic Abuse?

“I think I'm a victim of domestic violence. What exactly constitutes domestic abuse?"

By Tanya Helfand
October 14, 2011
NJ FAQ/Domestic Violence/Abuse

“Domestic Violence” is a very specific category of acts criminal in nature included by not limited to homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, sexual assault, and harassment. Many people have bad marriages and bad treatment and words from their spouses; i.e., “I am going to take everything from you in the divorce. You are going to get nothing.” “You are a bad cook and a bad mother/father…” 

These statements obviously are cruel and demeaning and can even be frightening or considered abusive, but they do not, on their own, rise to the level of domestic violence. These words may be a reason to end a marriage, but they statutorily are insufficient to rise to the level of domestic violence. 

Domestic violence is extremely serious. The statute is designed to protect a person, the victim, from an unsafe situation. The person who is accused of domestic violence, if a temporary restraining order is granted, will be temporarily removed from a home and barred from contacting the victim until the hearing. Then at the final hearing, typically within days of the Temporary Restraining Order, both parties can tell their story. The judge must find, using the statutory criteria, if there is domestic violence and it is a high burden. 

People often use the domestic violence court to try to oust a spouse from a home during a divorce because the “victim” does not want the other person there anymore. This can be a terrible misuse of the system, wasting time, money and judicial resources. 

If you or someone you know is a victim of real domestic violence where they are being physically assaulted or threatened, the law is here to help shield you from further harm. If you want to use the domestic violence court as a sword against a partner in an unhappy relationship, please refrain from doing so. It will not help you in the long run. 

Tanya Helfand is the founder of Helfand & Associates. A New Jersey law firm in Whippany, New Jersey. At Helfand & Associates, they believe mediation or negotiation should be used first to avoid costly litigation but are willing to go to trial to protect your interest. Tanya is a Certified Attorney through the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

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October 14, 2011

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