Over the summer, the New York Times stated that cases of child abuse dropped by more than 50 percent during the pandemic. Sadly, that number is not a good sign. With students learning remotely from their homes, teachers are not having direct contact with many children and therefore cannot report indications of abuse.
Relatedly, domestic violence reports have increased in New Jersey during recent months. The fact that family members are sheltered in place together in highly stressful circumstances creates an even greater problem for many abuse victims.
If your family is struggling with abuse, it might be time to speak to a New Jersey family law attorney about domestic violence and COVID-19. A compassionate lawyer can help you navigate this difficult time and inform you of your legal options.
Domestic Violence and Custody Cases in the Pandemic
When courts decide custody arrangements, they focus on what is in the best interests of the children. As such, instances of domestic violence will weigh heavily in a custody dispute. If the court believes that abuse took place, the judge might deny visitation to the alleged abuser for a period of time.
Judges can also allow for limited visitation, supervised visitation, or other accommodations to protect the children. A parent might have to take classes or undergo therapy to regain full visitation rights with their child.
In some cases, custody battles may lead to false abuse claims, which can be stressful and difficult to deal with. For victims, struggling with abuse at home is a terrifying scenario that no one should go through alone. Regardless of the circumstances, an experienced family law attorney can help the parties understand their rights and options for protecting themselves and their children.
Domestic Violence Laws
Under the New Jersey Prevention of Violence Act, the following relationships qualify as domestic:
- Members of the same house
- Former spouses
- Dating partners
- Parents who share a common child
Domestic violence laws are specific to cases of violence that occur between people in these types of relationships.
Restraining Orders during COVID-19
For victims of domestic violence, it is possible to obtain a temporary restraining order. The order may state that the abuser must leave a shared residence, grant temporary custody to the non-abusing parent, or include other terms that state that the abuser cannot contact the victims. The terms of a restraining order will vary based on the particular facts of the case.
The temporary restraining order only lasts until the date of the hearing, which will occur within ten days of the initial order. At the hearing, the judge will determine whether to put a permanent order in place and, if so, will state the terms of that order. Although the pandemic has restricted in-person legal proceedings, these hearings are still possible through virtual means.
Seeking a Restraining Order During COVID-19
COVID-19 led to many court closures and stay-at-home orders. However, courts are still conducting vital business, including handling matters that are crucial for protecting victims of abuse. It is still possible to file for a restraining order, and the court can still hold a hearing.
The final hearing in these matters may occur in person or take place on a video conference call. It is important for anyone wondering about how to protect themselves and their family to speak to a lawyer. Abuse may not go away during the pandemic, but the consequences for abuses do not go away either.
Speak with a Lawyer about Domestic Violence during COVID-19
Accusing someone of abuse can be frightening. Victims may fear that no one will believe them or that their abuser will retaliate. During COVID, there are additional fears and complications related to abuse cases. However, these new circumstances should not prevent a person from seeking the court’s protection when it is needed.
If you are struggling with domestic abuse in your home or family, do not hesitate to reach out to a New Jersey family law attorney. Your lawyer can help you understand your rights and options for protecting yourself and your loved ones.