The opinion of the court was delivered by: Zucker-zarett
This matter came before the Court for a final hearing under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act after a temporary restraining order had been issued in New Jersey to the victim. The question to be decided is whether or not a New Jersey court has jurisdiction to enter a Final Restraining Order where the alleged act of domestic violence occurred in another State, but where the victim fled to New Jersey for shelter.
J.N. and D.S. were both residents of the State of New Jersey. They dated while in high school and continued their dating relationship after D.S. went off to college in Nebraska and J.N. went to school in Massachusetts. D.S. invited J.N. to visit with him in Nebraska. She accepted his invitation and later decided to transfer from Massachusetts to Nebraska because she liked the campus in Nebraska better and thought the school had more to offer.
Some time after J.N. transferred to Nebraska, J.N. and D.S. terminated their dating relationship, but they continued to see each other. One night, J.N. was at a party at D.S.'s fraternity house with a fraternity brother of D.S.'s. D.S. arrived at the party a little later in the evening. Upon his arrival, he immediately engaged in an altercation with his fraternity brother. He then turned to J.N., verbally attacked her, slapped her on the neck, spat beer into her face and pushed and shoved her. She left the party with friends and went back to her apartment. Later that evening, she went out for coffee. When she returned, D.S. was waiting for her in the parking lot of her apartment. He proceeded to yell at her, call her and her mother obscene names and threatened he was going to make her life a living hell.
J.N. was frightened and felt her life and well-being were in danger. She went to the local police station, but they were unable to provide her with the assistance she sought. *fn1 She called her father in New Jersey who advised her that if she were that frightened, she should return home to New Jersey. She followed his advice, packed up her belongings and drove home to New Jersey. On August 29, 1996, nine days after the incident, she filed a domestic violence complaint against D.S. in New Jersey and obtained a T.R.O.
D.S. was served by mail in Nebraska with a copy of the complaint and the T.R.O. Because he was not returning to the State of New Jersey until winter recess, a continued restraining order was entered and a hearing was not scheduled until December 23, 1996.
D.S. sought to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. D.S. claimed that because the incident took place outside of New Jersey, that New Jersey lacked jurisdiction to enter a restraining order against him pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-28a.
N.J.S.A. 2C:25-28a establishes venue: it is not a jurisdictional statute. It permits a plaintiff to apply for relief in a court having jurisdiction over the place where the alleged act of domestic violence occurred, where the defendant resides, or where the plaintiff resides or is sheltered.
N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29a permits a court to consider certain factors at a final hearing. One is the existence of a verifiable order of protection from another jurisdiction. The State of New Jersey Domestic Violence Procedures Manual (Revised): September 1994 issued under the authority of the Supreme Court of New Jersey and the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey states, "Where a plaintiff has a verifiable order of protection from another state (or jurisdiction), the acts of violence that led to that order should be viewed as providing an adequate basis for the issuance of like restraints in New Jersey, without a need for alleging additional acts of violence." at 44.
N.J.S.A. 2C:25-28a permits a victim to file a complaint alleging the commission of an act of domestic violence. The complaint shall not be dismissed because the victim has left the residence to avoid further incidents of domestic violence. N.J.S.A. 2C:25-28a does not expressly mandate that the act of domestic violence must take place in New Jersey nor does N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29a foreclose the victim from proving at a final hearing that an act of domestic violence ...