In 1991, the Legislature found and declared that domestic violence is a serious crime against society. It found that thousands of persons in this state were regularly beaten, tortured and in some cases killed by their spouses or cohabitants; that a significant number of women were assaulted while pregnant; that victims of domestic violence came from all social and economic backgrounds; and that there is a positive correlation between spousal abuse and child abuse and that children, even if they are not themselves physically assaulted, suffer deep and lasting emotional effects from exposure to domestic violence. The Legislature further found that some of its most vulnerable citizens, the elderly and disabled, are victims of domestic violence as well.
The Legislature also found that although many of the existing criminal statues were applicable to acts of domestic violence, societal attitudes concerning domestic violence have affected the response of the law enforcement and judicial systems resulting that these acts received different treatment from similar crimes when they occur in a domestic violence.
The Legislature additionally identified the training needs of police and judicial personnel in the procedure and enforcement of this act.
Further, it is the responsibility of the courts to protect victims of violence that occurs in a family or family-like setting by providing access to both emergent and long-term civil and criminal remedies and sanctions, and by ordering those remedies and sanctions that are available to assure the safety of the victims and the public.
The Judiciary of New Jersey continues to be committed to responding to the needs of victims of domestic violence and their families and continues to make strides in effectuating the legislative mandates as set forth by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The protective process that is offered by New Jersey is noted as one of the foremost in the country. This website identifies current initiatives that the Judiciary has undertaken.
Under the federal Violence Against Women Act, a victim who has a restraining order from her/his home state and flees to another state to seek safety from further abuse may seek enforcement of the existing restraining order in the new state. The new state must provide full faith and credit to any existing restraining order or order of protection. The Full Faith and Credit provision of VAWA requires every jurisdiction in the United States to recognize and enforce valid protection orders issued in any jurisdiction in the United States.
In October 1991, the first Domestic Violence Procedures Manual was promulgated by the Supreme Court and the attorney general. The procedures manual receives revision as needed to accommodate legislative and statutory changes. The Procedures Manual was last revised in 2008. The procedures manual contains standardized procedures and guidelines for the law
The State Domestic Violence Working Group, pursuant to its original mandate as directed by the New Jersey Supreme Court, is charged with the responsibility of resolving the systemic issues facing the courts in the area of domestic violence. The SDVWG is chaired by an assignment judge and a family presiding judge. There is representation from the following groups:
In September 1991, the Supreme Court and the Attorney General issued a joint memorandum requesting that each family division presiding judge and county prosecutor convene or reconvene a county domestic violence working group in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties. These working groups assist in the design of a county implementation and monitoring strategy of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and of the Domestic Violence Procedures Manual. They also provide, on an ongoing basis, a forum for the identification and resolution of problems in the domestic violence prevention and protection process in that county.
Representatives of the county working group includes:
The Family Practice Division of the Administrative Office of the Courts presents a Report On The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act; N.J.S.A. 2C: 25-17 et seq. on a yearly basis. This report is a collection of comprehensive data reflecting a detailed picture of domestic violence filings, dispositions, and findings and this data provides critical information to the courts, the public and private agencies working to assist domestic violence victims and their families. In addition, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9b this report also includes data on non-indictable contempt charges, which are processed in Family Court, and on violations of non-contact orders, or other offenses that require arrest and criminal charges.
New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Central Registry makes available to law enforcement agencies and family court domestic violence personnel up-to-date information on all restraining orders entered into the Family Automated Case Tracking System (FACTS). The purpose of this registry serves as a valuable database for law enforcement to facilitate enforcement of temporary and final restraining orders, and protection to all victims as they move between municipalities, and counties within the state. The registry is also helpful in providing firearms licensing information to law enforcement personnel for screening of individuals who apply for firearms licensing. This registry was made possible through funding from the Federal STOP Violence Against Women Act, (VAWA), and through inter-agency cooperation among the Judiciary, the Attorney General’s Office, the New Jersey State Police, and local law enforcement.
The Domestic Violence Hearing Officer (DVHO) program allows specifically selected for trained hearing officers to hear most requests for a temporary restraining order (TRO) at the Superior Court Family Part. DVHO’s are quasi-judicial personnel specifically trained and sensitized about domestic violence dynamics, issues, and the law to hear initial requests for TROs . Once a DVHO hears a matter and makes a recommendation, a Superior Court family part judge then reviews the recommendations and if approved, the recommendations are incorporated into a TRO, and signed by a judge. The DVHO can only hear ex-parte TRO applications. Ex-parte applications are those applications when only one party is present.