On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FV-20-0710-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 29, 2010
Before Judges Wefing and Baxter.
Defendant, M.A.G., appeals from the final restraining order (FRO) entered against him on October 23, 2009, pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. The order barred him from having any contact with plaintiff, S.S.S., and directed him to stay away from her home, her job and from Rutgers-Newark where she was a student. We reverse and remand for a new trial due to the improper exclusion of evidence that was critical to M.A.G.'s defense.
On October 19, 2009, plaintiff filed a domestic violence complaint in which she alleged:
The plaintiff and defendant were in a dating relationship but have been apart since December of 2008. On October 5th of this year , the defendant came to the plaintiff's school w[h]ere he grabbed her arm and pushed her into a wall. The defendant has been calling the plaintiff and texting her since the October 5th incident and has made comments that the plaintiff and her current boyfriend will find out what is going to happen to them, which the plaintiff feels is a threat of harm.
Below the narrative section, the form contained the following preprinted language:
Which constitute(s) the following criminal offense(s). (Check all applicable boxes).
Of the fourteen possible boxes, the only box marked with a check was "harassment." "Assault" was not checked even though it was one of the fourteen boxes.
In the section of the complaint stating "Any prior history of domestic violence reported or unreported? If yes, explain," the complaint stated "[t]he defendant sexually assaulted the plaintiff in August 2007 which was not reported to the police. The defendant has pushed the plaintiff and pulled the plaintiff's hair numerous times during their past relationship."
A judge granted plaintiff a temporary restraining order upon the filing of the complaint, and the TRO was served on defendant the same day. The complaint notified him that a final hearing ...