According to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17, a victim of domestic violence can seek and maintain confidentiality of his or her whereabouts in regard to the abuser. This right is confirmed when the abuser is handed a final restraining order (FRO) by the NJ family law courts. A FRO makes it nearly impossible (for obvious reasons) for the abuser to locate the victim. If the abuser does attempt to reach out to the victim or locate the victim, the abuser can be prosecuted further.
In certain scenarios, a FRO can complicate any additional court proceedings. For instance, in one case (J.C. v. M.C.), the husband/abuser of one domestic violence victim filed a divorce complaint but was unable to serve the complaint since he did not know the location of the victim. The husband could not legally serve the complaint on his own since he was under a FRO at the time.
J.C. v. M.C.
The husband and wife involved in this case were married in 2006, and the wife filed a domestic violence against the husband in 2012, which resulted in a final restraining order. The husband recently filed a pro se (without representation of a lawyer) divorce complaint, but the complaint cannot be served to his spouse because of her right to confidentiality.
In a situation such as this, the rights of the plaintiff (husband) and the defendant (wife) must be observed. A plaintiff in a divorce complaint has an obligation to do his or her due diligence to locate the defendant in order to serve the complaint. Of course in this case, seeking to locate his spouse would be in conflict with his restraining order.
Rule 4:4-5(a) asserts that once due diligence has been made by the plaintiff, service of the divorce complaint may be permitted by other methods. Since the plaintiff in this case may not legally contact the defendant, the court orders that the domestic violence unit will attempt to serve the complaint. The court will decide what actions to take if the unit is unable to make contact and serve the defendant.
Contact a NJ Family Lawyer
An experienced NJ family lawyer will assist clients through complicated areas of family law such as divorce complaints and final restraining orders against spouses. If you need legal representation from a NJ family lawyer, contact Villani & DeLuca today at (732) 709-7757.
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