New York Domestic Violence Law: Testimony of Controlling Behavior

In this blog, I have discussed patterns that the New York divorce lawyers at Rapaport Law Firm have observed during our two decades attorneys for victims of domestic violence in New York and New Jersey.

In my earlier post, entitled New York Courts Allow Testimony of Battered Women’s Syndrome, I wrote about the cyclical patterns of abuse that are recurrent in abusive relationships. Sometimes, attorneys for victims of domestic violence offer trial testimony by domestic violence experts regarding such cyclical patterns. Most recently, trial testimony by a domestic violence expert in a New Zealand murder trial garnered widespread international publicity.

Last week, the Appellate Division for New York State’s First Department (which encompasses courts in Manhattan and the Bronx) issued a legal decision that touches upon yet another, a significant pattern in domestic violence matters: the unwillingness of the domestic abuser to accept a victim’s decision to end the parties’ relationship. In my experience, at least 15% of domestic abuse cases involve, at some level, an abuser’s refusal to acknowledge and accept that the victim (typically the girlfriend or wife) wishes to end their relationship and move on, independently, with her life.

Oftentimes, the abuser’s obsessive need to continue exerting control over the victim leads to a violent act, stalking behavior, or other criminal act that necessitates the initial filing of a request (i.e., a complaint or petition) for an order of protection. In other instances, stalking or other behavior occurs after a temporary order of protection has been issued, thus necessitating the filing of a petition to hold the abuser in contempt of court. Domestic violence laws in New York permit victims to provide testimony and evidence of such obsessive, controlling actions.

The divorce attorneys at Rapaport Law Firm are currently involved in two separate domestic violence trials in which we represent clients who were subjected to abusive behavior merely because of their efforts to end marital relationships. In each of these cases, the other spouse reacted with rage, indignation, and threats of violence.

The First Department decision referred to above was entered in the case In re Jayline R., (2013 NY Slip Op 6303), on October 1, 2013. In its decision, the Court referred to “respondent’s apparent refusal to accept the termination of his relationship with the children’s mother” as one of the factors that necessitated an order of protection.

In practical terms, victims of domestic violence and family law attorneys who represent them should be ready and able to present competent testimony regarding a respondent-abuser’s refusal to permit the victim to move on with her life. Such testimony can (and should) lead to the issuance of an order of protection in New York and New Jersey courts.

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