Matrimonial Civil Restraints Have Been Given Sharpened Teeth

On March 24, 2014, the Appellate Division published a case, N.B. v. S.K. In N.B., the Appellate Division found that the trial court erred in refusing to allow a Plaintiff in a domestic violence trial to testify as to the existence and violation of prior civil restraints, and that the judge should have considered those violations. The Court did not find that such testimony would serve as proof certain that acts of domestic violence occurred, but rather could serve as an indication of how the Plaintiff viewed the alleged acts of domestic violence being tried.

This ruling can make a significant difference in the way that domestic violence situations are negotiated. Many times, clients who are victims of domestic violence are hesitant to enter into matrimonial civil restraints because they do not feel that it offers any real protection against the perpetrator. Some victims may feel that civil restraints are not worth the paper that they are written on, as police officers cannot be called to enforce them. At the same time, this ruling makes it known to perpetrators that entry into civil restraints is not a free pass, and that the existence of these restraints may be used against him/her should future acts of domestic violence occur. If you are considering entering into civil restraints as opposed to going forward with Final Restraining Order hearing, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney as to the pros and cons of civil restraints. Posted by Robyn E. Ross, Esq.