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Bryant v. Burnett

Decided: April 22, 1993.

CATHY BRYANT, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES BURNETT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Cumberland County.

King, Brody and Thomas. The opinion of the court was delivered by King, P.J.A.D.

King

On this appeal, defendant claims that the evidence did not support the permanent restraining order entered against him on this domestic violence complaint. Plaintiff filed a sworn complaint under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 (Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -33, which sought temporary and permanent restraints against defendant. She alleged that on January 7, 1992 defendant hit her, pulled her hair, knocked her to the floor and threatened her with additional violence. She required emergency room treatment.

The Millville Municipal Court Judge issued a temporary restraining order on January 7, 1992 and set a final hearing date for January 15. Defendant was required to pay for the emergency

room services and was ordered not to return to the residence where he and plaintiff had lived. Defendant did not appear at the January 15 final hearing in the Superior Court before Judge Forester. He was in jail, apparently on another charge. After taking testimony from the plaintiff, the Judge continued the temporary restraint and issued a bench warrant for defendant. The final hearing was rescheduled and held on March 18, 1992. By that time, plaintiff was incarcerated on an unrelated charge but she, along with defendant, did appear at the March 18 hearing.

The record reveals that at the time of the January 7 altercation, plaintiff had been living with defendant for three months. Plaintiff testified that, "[h]e asked me to . . . come stay with him." She kept her possessions at defendant's address, and had lived there continuously for three months until the January 7 incident.

Defendant said that plaintiff had no place to stay and he offered her the opportunity to stay at his place as a favor. He did not intend any agreement to live together on any ongoing or permanent basis. He said, "She was supposed to get her own place," apparently after she found a job.

By the time of the March 18 final hearing, plaintiff, though then in jail, had obtained her own residence. She no longer had any possessions at defendant's residence. The Judge's final, permanent order excepts defendant's residence from the scope of the restraint. Defendant was otherwise restrained from any contact with plaintiff after she was released from jail. Defendant claims that even though he and plaintiff had lived together for three months, their intent at that time that the arrangement was "temporary" deprived plaintiff of standing to bring a complaint under the Act, since she was not a member of his "household."

The Act states that "it is the responsibility of the courts to protect victims of violence that occurs in a family or family-like setting." N.J.S.A. 2C:25-18. The Act defines "Victim of Domestic Violence" this way:

[A] person protected under this act . . . shall include any person who is 18 years of age or older . . . who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former

spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member, or a person with whom the victim has a child in ...


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