Spousal Abuse and Legal Protection From Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is sometimes referred to as “spousal abuse”.  However, both legally and psychologically, the phrase domestic violence encompasses far more than abusive behavior between spouses.   Acts of domestic violence may include:

  • Verbal Harassment;
  • Use of Financial Inequality to Exert Control;
  • Threats of Physical Harm;
  • Attempts to Embarrass or Humiliate; and
  • Attempts to Isolate or Control a Partner – or to Coerce a Partner Into Remaining in a Relationship.

The foregoing are just a few examples of the various kinds of behavior that encompass domestic violence.   You do not need to be married to seek the court’s protection and help in escaping from an abusive relationship.

Each year, the attorneys at Rapaport Law Firm help clients identify and deal with spousal and relationship abuse issues.  In many cases, this entails legal proceedings involving requests for orders of protection.  In New York, we regularly appear on behalf of our firm’s clients in Family Court.  In New Jersey, we represent clients in the Family Part of the Superior Court’s Chancery Division.  The attorneys at Rapaport Law Firm have litigated family offense cases in New York and New Jersey since 1995.

Victims of domestic violence are sometimes unable to speak for themselves.  Frequently, people who have suffered from spousal abuse feel a complex mixture of emotions, including fear, self-doubt, shame, and denial.  For more than two decades, the attorneys at Rapaport Law have helped our clients address the serious emotional and legal issues that arise when a client seeks to get help after suffering an abusive intimate relationship.

Family Offense/Domestic Violence Law in New York:

New York’s Family Protection and Domestic Violence Intervention Act of 1994 consists of 50 separate provisions that provide victims of domestic violence with the right to obtain orders of protection and other forms of relief in both criminal and family courts.  In fact, a victim of domestic violence has unfettered access to both courts, and may concurrently bring both criminal and Family Court proceedings against an abuser.

An order of protection – requiring an abuser to stay away from and refrain from any direct or indirect communications with the victim – is just one of the many forms of relief that a victim of domestic violence may obtain against their abuser.   In 1995, the New York State Legislature mandated that judges consider domestic violence when making decisions relating to custody and visitation of children.

Other forms of relief that are available to victims of domestic violence include (to name just a few):

  • Reparation for injuries, including (where the victim is an immediate family member of the respondent) an order requiring the respondent/abuser to enroll the victim in his or her employer-subsidized health insurance coverage;
  • Legal fees;
  • Suspension/revocation of abuser’s right to carry a firearm;
  • An Order directing the abuser to stay away from the victim’s place of work, residence  or any other specific location designated by the court– or to stay away from another member of the victim’s household;

In the case, New York v. Santiago, 2003 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 829; 2003 NY Slip Op 51034(U) (NY Supreme Crt. 2003), Judge Atlas of the New York State Supreme Court discusses the three phases that often characterize domestic violence: (1) tension building; (2) violence; and (3) honeymoon.

New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Act:

In New Jersey, we represent clients in proceedings for orders of protection under the NJ Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991.  Typically, a case begins with the filing of a complaint with the Chancery Division.  At that time, a judge may issue a temporary order of protection, which requires the defendant to remain away from our client until a final order is entered at the conclusion of a trial. If a defendant violates the temporary order, he is subject to immediate arrest.  Under Section 2C:25-29 of the New Jersey Code, a judge may order the abuser to stay away from the victim’s residence, even if the parties previously lives together.  New Jersey law also empowers judges to require that abusers provide monetary compensation to domestic violence victims.

You do not need to be married to your partner to obtain an order of protection.   Persons who are in “dating relationships” can get orders of protection in New Jersey pursuant to Section 2C:25-19 of the NJ Code.