Maplewood, NJ asked in Family Law for New Jersey

Q: Aunt has sent more than 150 txt and emails in 90 days with harsh language and degrading comments. Can I do anything

I have more than 150 emails text and voice mails that I have been receiving for more than 3 months. It started because I did not throw a birthday party for my son in the beginning of June during Corona virus lockdown. It has escalated to her verbally attacking me, and everybody in the family. She then threatened to come near my children without my knowledge and said I would never know when she is there. Do I have any legal right to get her to stop harassing? The messages begin at 6:00 in the morning and sometimes do not end till 10 o'clock at night

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2 Lawyer Answers
Andrew M Shaw
Andrew M Shaw
Answered
  • Somerville, NJ
  • Licensed in New Jersey

A: First, you can report her harassment to the local police department. Harassment and cyber harassment are both crimes in the State of New Jersey. Whether to bring charges for any particular act of harassment rests in the discretion of the prosecutor's office, but the possibility of criminal charges (even if they are not ultimately brought) may be enough to deter future misconduct.

Second, you may be entitled to a restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act ("PDVA"). Under the PDVA, only a victim of domestic violence can obtain a restraining order. The term "victim of domestic violence" is defined to include "a person protected under this act and shall include any person who is 18 years of age or older or who is an emancipated minor and who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present household member or was at any time a household member." Additionally, it includes “any person, regardless of age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has a child in common, or with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant." Finally, the term victim of domestic violence includes "any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship."

Since this is your aunt, it seems plausible that at some point you were members of the same household. If so, relief under the PDVA is available to you, and I strongly recommend retaining a qualified attorney to represent you. Strategic and aggressive counsel will help to maximize your odds of success. Please contact one of the lawyers here on Justia. Many of us would be happy to sit down with you free of charge to explore the facts, explain the law, and address the likely timeline, costs, and range of possible outcomes.

Whether you reach out to me or to another attorney, I wish you the best of luck.

Richard Diamond
Richard Diamond
Answered
  • Millburn, NJ
  • Licensed in New Jersey

A: The interesting thing is that there is a recent unreported NJ appellate division decision addressing this exact issue and the trial court found that the relative had engaged in harassment behavior and issues a restraining order. The order was then overturned by the appellate division who found that a closer examination of the text message exchange showed that the 2 women BOTH continued to engage in the exchange and that there were points where the relative decided to stop the communication and the other person continued the exchange. Be careful, because you may view her actions as harassment but the question is whether you are simply ignoring them or telling her simply to stop communicating with you OR whether you are responding to her and also going back at her with the texts. My suggestion is to simply tell her that you want no further contact or communication from her and that you will view same as harassment. Then simply stop responding to her texts and or block her texts and calls. If she persists in reaching out, again let her know in a simple 1 line response that neither you nor your immediate family want any contact from her and that you and your immediate family view her actions as harassment - do not send any further texts nor engage in the exchange because she will argue that you also engaged in the same behavior when she wanted to end it.

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