How to Prove Domestic Violence in Divorce
New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state. That means that a married couple can get a divorce, or one spouse can divorce the other over their objection, without a traditional “cause” such as infidelity or abandonment. There are, however, types of “fault” behavior in New Jersey that are still relevant to the divorce proceedings. If one spouse has a history of perpetrating domestic violence against their spouse or children, that violent propensity should be brought to the attention of the court. Domestic violence may affect parental rights, alimony, and even property division. Unfortunately, domestic violence can also be challenging to prove. Continue reading to learn how to prove domestic violence in a New Jersey divorce, and contact a seasoned Englewood child custody and divorce attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.
Not All Domestic Violence is Physical
In New Jersey, domestic violence for the purposes of obtaining a restraining order (often called an order of protection) or for a divorce incorporates more than just physical violence. The standard test of domestic violence for a restraining order includes demonstrating that the target of the order committed any of a number of predicate acts established by statute and case law. Acts that may constitute domestic violence include:
- Physical assault
- Terroristic threats
- False imprisonment (kidnapping)
- Sexual assault
Harassment is, in fact, one of the most common forms of domestic violence that gives rise to restraining orders. If you have reason to fear for the safety of yourself, your children, or other family members, it is important to raise these fears to the court, even if no physical violence has yet taken place. Talk to your divorce lawyer about your spouse’s conduct to find out if it might give rise to a claim of domestic violence.
Evidence of Domestic Violence
Demonstrating domestic violence can be challenging. The strongest type of evidence is a prior conviction for domestic violence offenses. The standard of proof for a criminal conviction is much higher than the standard of proof for relevant facts in a divorce, so a criminal conviction for domestic violence is de facto proof that such conduct took place. This is just one of the many reasons it is important to report any incident of domestic violence to the proper authorities.
Even without a criminal conviction, however, a party to a divorce can demonstrate that their spouse committed violence against themselves or their children. If a party can demonstrate that they obtained an order of protection on behalf of themselves, their children, or another family member, such evidence is nearly as strong as a criminal conviction.
Without an order of protection or other prior court finding concerning domestic violence, a party may offer evidence at a hearing to prove that domestic violence occurred. Such evidence could include:
- Medical reports and diagnoses concerning injuries the party sustained
- Photographs of injuries to the party or children
- Testimony of witnesses to the abuse, such as family, friends, neighbors, or police officers
A seasoned divorce and domestic violence attorney can help you build the strongest case for proving that abuse occurred in your marriage. Proving domestic violence is essential to protect your rights, your children, and your personal safety.
Help from a New Jersey Divorce Attorney
If you’re considering divorce in New Jersey or dealing with child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the compassionate and dedicated Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at 201-440-6300.