In a case of first impression, a state judge in New Jersey has ruled that “a pregnant domestic violence victim [may] obtain pre-birth, advance protection for her unborn child against a violent abuser.” B.C. v. T.G., Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FV-15-1033-13, approved for publication on May 3.

B.C.. aged 17, and T.G., aged 18, had a dating relationship, which ended shortly after B.C. informed T.G. that she was pregnant with his child.

T.G. did not want B.C. to have the baby. He arranged to meet with B.C. under the guise of wanting to discuss pre-natal medical appointments for the unborn child. When B.C. arrived for the meeting, four female acquaintances of T.G.’s dragged B.C. from her car, threw her to the ground and, at his direction, proceeded to assault her. T.G. joined in.  B.C. incurred multiple injuries in the attack, and it is unknown whether the fetus suffered damage in the assault.

After the trial, the court found that T.G. ambushed B.C. and committed egregious domestic violence against her in a group attack which T.G. arranged.  As a result, the court entered a final restraining order, prohibiting T.G. from having any contact with B.C. At B.C.’s request, the court added her parents and three siblings as additional protected persons under her restraining order so that T.G. was prohibited from contacting them as well.

The court then went on to consider whether T.C.’s restraining order could also include advance protection for plaintiff’s unborn child, to take automatic effect upon birth so as to protect the child from T.G.

After analyzing New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35., the court concluded that, since the statutory safeguards in the Act designed to protect the victim of domestic violence could have been extended to protect B.C.’s child had she already given birth to the baby before the date the restraining order was entered by the court, there was no grounds to prevent a domestic violence restraining order from providing in advance for protection of a child not yet born, The court held:

“[W]hile a fetus is not yet legally a person, upon live birth the fetus becomes a person, with rights of redress and protection from harms which originated before birth.”

Noting that there are no known reported cases in the realm of domestic violence litigation which directly deal with the issue presented here, the trial judge stated that he saw “nothing in either our law or public policy which prohibits a court of equity from entering a final restraining order protecting a pregnant victim of domestic violence by including an advance protection provision for her unborn child, to take effect immediately upon the child’s live birth.”

As a result, the court included a specific advance protection provision in B.C.’s restraining order, expressly providing that her unborn child shall, upon birth, be automatically deemed an additional protected person under the domestic violence restraining order.

The case is attached here – B.C. v. T.G.