Domestic Violence and Frequently Asked Questions

Lifting Up Survivors of Domestic Violence in New Jersey

Assertive and compassionate advocacy for men, women and children throughout the state

In New Jersey, domestic violence occurs when one member of a household mistreats another physically, verbally, sexually or psychologically. This abuse is bad enough, but many sufferers of domestic violence are so intimidated or embarrassed that they are afraid to seek legal help. At Price, Meese, Shulman & D’Arminio, PC, we’re passionate about our work with domestic violence survivors and compassionate about their situation. If you need help — and you’re in a safe place — we can help you.

Who can be a victim of domestic violence?

Under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, a target of domestic violence may be:

An adult who has been abused by:

  • A spouse
  • A former spouse
  • Any other person who is a past or present member of the household

An adult or minor who has been abused by someone with whom: 

  • The victim has a child in common
  • The victim anticipates having a child in common (if one of the parties is pregnant)
  • The victim has had a dating relationship

To fall under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the abuser must be older than 18 or emancipated at the time of the offense. If you have been the victim of domestic violence our attorneys can help you take steps to keep the abuser away. And if the abuser is your spouse or partner, we can help you decide whether it is time to think about divorce and the dissolution of your marriage.

Types of domestic violence

Under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the following crimes can constitute domestic violence:

  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Terroristic threat
  • Kidnapping
  • Criminal restraint
  • False imprisonment
  • Sexual assault
  • Criminal sexual contact • Lewdness
  • Criminal mischief
  • Burglary
  • Criminal trespass
  • Harassment
  • Stalking

What can be done to stop domestic violence?

You can request a temporary restraining order by contacting your local police department, the Family Part of the Superior Court, any municipal court, or the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE (7233). If you have been the victim of domestic violence our attorneys can help you obtain a restraining order.

If you call the police after an incident of domestic violence and the police officer determines that an immediate court order is necessary to protect you from further acts of violence, the officer will contact a judge by telephone or police radio. The judge will ask you questions about the incident. If the judge decides to issue a temporary restraining order, the police officer will immediately serve it on the abuser.

Within 10 days of the date of the temporary restraining order, the court will schedule a hearing at which both you and your abuser will have a chance to testify. If the court finds that you are at risk of further violence, the judge will issue a final restraining order. If your abuser violates the order our attorneys can help you enforce it.

What does a restraining order do?

To protect a victim of domestic violence, a judge can include any or all of the following provisions in a restraining order:

  • Forbidding the abuser from returning to the scene of the domestic violence or other specified locations
  • Prohibiting the abuser from future acts of domestic violence
  • Forbidding the abuser from possessing a firearm or other weapon
  • Restricting the abused from having any communication or contact with the victim or the victim’s relatives in person, via telephone or in writing
  • Requiring the abuser to pay temporary child support
  • Making the abuser reimburse the victim for any medical expenses incurred because of the violence
  • Granting the exclusive possession of the residence to the target of domestic violence
  • Giving temporary custody of the children to the survivor of domestic violence

Contact our office if you are a victim of domestic violence

If you have been abused by your spouse, partner or relative, the attorneys at Price, Meese, Shulman & D’Arminio, P.C., can help you protect yourself and your children.

Frequently Asked Questions About NJ Family Law

What are “grounds for divorce” in New Jersey?

Marriage, divorce, and related matters are governed by state law. The New Jersey legislature established grounds for divorce by statute and can change these grounds. Many other states provide for divorce on grounds of “incompatibility,” “irreconcilable differences,” or “breakdown of marriage.” In New Jersey, a Complaint for Divorce must allege one of the following grounds, and without one of these, the court is not authorized to grant a divorce:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Extreme cruelty
  • No-fault separation (living separate and apart for 18 months in different homes)
  • Habitual drug addiction • Habitual drunkenness
  • Institutionalization for mental illness
  • Imprisonment
  • Deviant sexual conduct
  • Irreconcilable differences that have lasted for six months or more

Irreconcilable differences and no-fault separation are the “no-fault” grounds — all others are fault-based.
Whatever ground for divorce a party relies on, it will have to be proved. The exact type and amount of evidence necessary to prove a certain ground is established by prior cases, which your lawyer makes it his or her business to know. In New Jersey, there must be a hearing at which it is possible that at least one witness besides you will have to testify about the allegations.

You will be asked to provide us with certain relevant information on a confidential questionnaire from which we will get the necessary facts for preparing and filing legal documents, preparing a Complaint For Divorce if you are filing or an answer and/or counterclaim if you have been served with a Complaint For Divorce.

What happens if I file (or my spouse files) for divorce?

Once a divorce complaint is filed or answered, it is often up to one year before the court hears the case as a contested trial. Since each individual case may vary, this period could be longer ¬– especially in the event of a contested divorce, complex property settlement, or disagreement over custody or support money.

After the initial “complaint” has been filed and served on the other party, if the other party intends to answer and/or file a counterclaim, he or she must do so within 35 days. After this period has gone by, and an Early Settlement Panel meeting has occurred, a hearing can be scheduled. After the hearing, it takes a number of weeks for the final decree to be signed by the judge and to receive a final copy from the court.

Price, Meese, Shulman, & D’Arminio will expeditiously handle your case and attend to your legal responsibilities. We will represent you and stand ready to advise you and to do what you instruct us to do, as long as it is within reason. Before any settlement is reached, we will prepare documents that you must read and sign for filing with the court, and then our firm will notify you of the trial date as soon as we know it ¬– usually several weeks beforehand.

Do most cases settle before going to trial?

Yes. Many of the matters incidental to a divorce can be more expeditiously disposed of if they are settled between the parties and not contested in court. The matters that are agreed on are set down in a contract signed by husband and wife, called a Property Settlement and Support Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement . It can deal with property division, support money, custody and visitation, insurance and many other subjects. It will be adopted as part of the final divorce decree and the agreement will have the strength of a court order, enforceable by contempt proceedings.

Even if we settle, does the court get involved?

Yes. Property ownership and division of assets of a marriage are usually reviewed and formally agreed to at the final hearing. If the respective parties to a divorce can agree on division of properties, then this may be incorporated into a property settlement to be presented to the court for incorporation in the divorce judgment.

What about child support or spousal support before any settlement takes place?

While a case is pending, a husband (and in some cases, a wife) is liable for the support of a spouse and/or certain children. If the parties cannot agree on an amount, the court will determine this amount. The support amount is based upon earnings of the respective spouses and needs of the support recipient. A support order will likely be part of the final divorce decree.

If child custody and visitation rights cannot be agreed upon, then the court will establish them.

It is possible to obtain immediate financial support from a spouse and an immediate temporary custody order from the court as soon as a divorce complaint is filed. In certain cases, one party can be temporarily barred from certain premises or put under a court order to keep her or him from attacking or threatening the other or removing the children. If you think you will need this kind of relief, please mention it to your counsel immediately.

What are the client’s responsibilities in a divorce case? Can I negotiate with my spouse directly?

You are entitled to expect your attorney to preserve your confidential communications and to prosecute your case to the best of the attorney’s professional ability. The facts of your case will be the chief determinant and the outcome will be in the sole discretion of the court — subject to appeal if necessary. You are responsible for keeping your attorney informed as to all facts.

Frequently, legal aspects of a domestic proceeding closely involve other family members and third parties. After you have deposited an amount of money with your attorney as a retainer, you will be regarded as having established an attorney-client relationship with the firm. Once this relationship exists, you will not be asked to relay specific settlement proposals to an estranged spouse. This creates ethical difficulties for the lawyer under the Code of Professional Responsibility because it involves bypassing the other party’s lawyer. This is regarded as taking advantage of the other party. For the same reason, you cannot expect your attorney to talk directly to your spouse.

As the client, your first major responsibility will be to work out the course of the continuing personal relationship with your spouse and, as the case may be, your children. This does not mean that we will not be available to discuss the legal aspects of day-to-day problems, but our fees are based on time spent on a case (including telephone conversations) and there is no need for you to increase your legal fees unnecessarily.

Your second responsibility will be to inform us of any relevant changes in your domestic situation — especially a reconciliation.

When court appearances are scheduled, it will be your responsibility to be present on time at the designated courtroom in the county courthouse. If we determine that witnesses are required to be present on your behalf, you will coordinate everything with them and be certain they know when and where to be. If you are the complainant, then you may need corroborating witnesses.

Why is recordkeeping important?

You will have to produce records of your total income, whether from wages, fees or investments, and all of your assets, and furnish a complete list of debts and liabilities, including amounts required to meet all installment payments. Keep complete notes regarding all living expenses for yourself and for any children or other dependents. When not able to state exact expenses, you should make your best reasonable estimate. Always attempt to be fair to yourself as well as your spouse. Keep in mind the fact that judges are very experienced in these matters and will quickly recognize exaggerated demands.

Should I listen to the advice of friends and family?

Domestic litigation is a part of American life and almost everyone has been directly or indirectly involved in domestic proceedings. Thus it is common for those involved in divorce to hear from many sources — friends and family members, for starters — about the divorce process. Just remember: Much of that information may not apply to the facts of your case.


This FAQ section is not intended to be a comprehensive presentation of the law and, due to the importance of the individual facts, the general remarks herein should not necessarily be applied to any particular case. Furthermore, changes in the law could at any time make parts of this statement obsolete. We are particularly conscious of the changing law: Our attorneys attend continuing legal education courses to stay abreast of the latest developments, both in New Jersey and nationally.

Contact our attorneys

At Price, Meese, Shulman & D’Arminio, we believe in constructive solutions to complex family law issues. We assist clients throughout New Jersey seek the best results possible for their children. Contact us online or call 201 391 3737 to schedule a consultation about your legal issues.

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