“Intent to Harass” and Domestic Violence

My experience has been that many domestic violence litigants (and unfortunately many attorneys) fail to understand that controlling free speech is not the key goal in New Jersey’s domestic violence laws.  Even use of extremely offensive language in a household is not of itself sufficent to create a finding of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a complex subject and certainly this blog is an insufficent forum to offer more than tidbits of information on the subject.  However, a recently published case emphasized that for a finding of harassment to me made, at a minimum the perpetrator of the offensive language must intend to harass the person, or “victim” to whom the statements are made. 

Finding intent is not automatic, especially in a typical “he said/ she said” scenario.  That the person hearing the statement is offended or insulted may also not be sufficient.  Judges are obligated to sift through the testimony and any evidence offered at a hearing to determine whether there really was an act of domestic violence, or whether household squabbling that is short of domestic violence (called “domestic contretemps”) has occured.

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