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Domestic Violence Defendant Exonerated at Trial



June 26, 2013: Our client, a male unmarried teacher purchased a home with his fiancée in Somerset County. Shortly after the purchase, the couple began arguing and had numerous police visits. After our client expressed buyer’s remorse and wanted to sell the property, his fiancée filed a restraining order.

Our client believed the restraining order was retaliatory and sought to gain a leg up on a fight over ownership of the property. Our client faced the nightmare of being forbidden to step foot in a property he had signed a mortgage to purchase.

Our client was arrested for Simple Assault under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1 and faced 6 months in jail. A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was also issued. The Superior Court would decide if a Final Restraining Order (FRO) would be issued pursuant to The Prevention of Domestic Violence Law, N.J.S.A.2C:25-17 (PDVL). Our client now had an arrest record – and if an FRO was issued, he would have been placed on the domestic violence data base, a big problem for a teacher. By filing the charges, the plaintiff obtained the resources of the domestic violence team.

We attempted to reason with the plaintiff, who oddly wanted to discuss the real estate issues rather than her allegations of domestic violence. It became clear that there would be no resolution and a trial on the FRO would be necessary. In preparing for the FRO hearing, we were able to uncover that the plaintiff had prior FROs issued against her. We also uncovered allegations of past violence committed by the plaintiff. Following trial, the judge found for our client and dismissed the TRO. The Simple Assault charge was later dismissed in the Bound Brook Municipal Court.

There is a lesson to be learned from this case – unmarried couples should never purchase real estate without consulting with separate counsel. Married couples have automatic protections of their rights over real estate. When things go wrong between unmarried owners of real estate, it would be necessary to bring an action for the partition to force a sale. This can cost thousands of dollars. Legal counsel prior to the sale can prevent this.

The Law Offices of James A. Abate LLC

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