Updates to New Jersey Domestic Violence Laws

On January 8, 2024 Governor Murphy signed into law two statutes which crucially amended the domestic violence laws in New Jersey.

First, Assembly Bill 1475 amended N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29 so that a court evaluating the necessity of issuing a Final Restraining Order can consider the impact of a pattern of “coercive control” on the domestic violence victim. The statute now provides that coercive control can include (but is not limited to):

  1. Isolating the person from friends, relatives, transportation, medical care, or other source of support;
  2. Depriving the person of basic necessities;
  3. Monitoring the person's movements, communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services;
  4. Compelling the person by force, threat, or intimidation, including, but not limited to, threats based on actual or suspected immigration status;
  5. Threatening to make or making baseless reports to the police, courts, the department division of child protection and permanency (DCPP) within the department of children and families, the board of social services, immigration and customs enforcement (ice), or other parties;
  6. Threatening to harm or kill the individual's relative or pet; or
  7. Threatening to deny or interfere with an individual's custody or parenting time, other than through enforcement of a valid custody arrangement or court order.

The new law closes a gray area that existed for some victims when their cases went to court or they sought restraining orders, especially in cases which involved child custody or were involved in active divorce proceedings. Because coercive control wasn’t recognized as a form of domestic abuse, it created a gap in legal proceedings prior to the January 8 amendment.

Second, Assembly Bill 3093 amended N.J.S.A. 2C:25-27 and -29 to codify a long-standing judicial holding which permitted a court to provide automatic protection under a Final Restraining Order to a child who, while a fetus at the time of the domestic violence proceedings, was then born alive.

In 2013, the Honorable Lawrence R. Jones, J.S.C. (now retired), then seated in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, issued a published trial court decision in B.C. v T.G., 430 N.J. Super. 455 (Ch. Div. 2013). At issue before the Court was the novel question of whether a Final Restraining Order can include an element of “advance protection” for a domestic violence plaintiff’s then-unborn child, to spring automatically into effect upon the birth of the child. The court considered whether it was in keeping with the public policy of our State to require the party protected by the existing Final Restraining Order to come back to court to add the child as a protected party. In that case, the court found that it was able to include an advance protection provision in the plaintiff’s Final Restraining Order to automatically protect the child upon birth.

Now, over 10 years later, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-27 and -29 provide specifically that “If the victim is pregnant, at the victim's request the court may order that the victim's child shall, immediately upon birth, be included in the order.”

If you have questions about a Final Restraining Order and its potential impact on your family, the experienced family law attorneys at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf, LLP can help you understand your rights and obligations. Call us for more information.