In a case of first impression, a trial judge in Ocean County ruled that victims of domestic elder abuse can use New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to obtain restraining orders against their abusers. J.C. v. B.S., Docket No. FV-15-352-16 (Chan. Div., Family Part, Ocean County, September 14, 2015)

In an unpublished opinion, Superior Court Judge Lawrence Jones ruled that, under New Jersey law, there is “a clear recognition of the need for special protection and care to be afforded to senior citizens against elder abuse and domestic violence …” As a result, even though elder abuse is not specifically mentioned as a protected category under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, victims of elder abuse can use the Act to protect themselves from the abuser as a matter of public policy.

Plaintiff, a 73 year old senior citizen, incurred two mini-strokes, undergone two back operations and a hip replacement. She is physically frail, and has difficulty walking. Nonetheless, she still lives independently in her own home, and has allowed defendant, her adult son, to stay with her.

Plaintiff filed a domestic violence complaint against her son, seeking a restraining order removing defendant from her home on the grounds of ongoing harassment. After a hearing, the court agreed with plaintiff, finding that defendant verbally abused plaintiff on an ongoing basis through constant verbal obscenities, chronically calling her vulgar names and making other disrespectful references to her female anatomy. Further, the court found that defendant, by verbally harassing plaintiff, acted with hostility and intent to harass.

The Court recognized that not every incidence of verbal harassment constitutes domestic violence. However, verbal harassment may constitute domestic violence, and the Court ruled that it did so under the facts in this case, as follows:

[T]his is a matter where an angry adult child is emotionally abusing an elderly, physically compromised mother in her own home on a chronic and near-daily basis by repeatedly berating her with shocking obscenities and profanities in a way which, from an objective standpoint, is socially unacceptable and crosses over … into … domestic violence. The nature and frequency of same, … demonstrates defendant’s unacceptable hostility towards his mother, with purpose to cause plaintiff emotional upset, pain, and injury to her own self-esteem. No person, senior or otherwise, should be expected to tolerate this type of mistreatment and disrespect in his or her own house … .

The Court granted plaintiff’s request for a final restraining order, prohibiting defendant from re-entry into plaintiff’s home until further order of the Court.

The J.C. v. B.S. case is annexed here – J.C. v. B.S.

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