I Swear!
Posted by Scott Gorman - December 21, 2016

When you lose your temper, it can be hard to control what comes out of your mouth—and that’s fairly universal for people across the globe. Anger makes us say and do things we would normally consider taboo, like raising your voice, lashing out, or even cursing at a friend or family member. The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey has made a statement about anger that is expressed in swearing or cursing from one spouse to another. According to their ruling, language that disturbs one spouse can be considered domestic abuse and can be punished under the law.

In the case of C.M.F. v. R.G.F., 418 N.J. Super. 396 (App. Div. 2011), the husband had loudly yelled vulgar and obscene names at his wife while at their children’s basketball game. The wife filed for protection under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and she obtained a temporary restraining order. At a hearing on whether to grant the wife’s application for a final restraining order, the husband argued that his wife should not have been granted a restraining order simply because he lost his temper and shouted at her, and that he did not mean to harass or annoy her. However, the Appellate Division pointed to the plain language of the Harassment statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, and the precedent set in State v Hoffman, 149 N.J. 564 (1997), which established that domestic violence protection may be appropriate when the alleged abuser communicates with the victim by using offensively course language with the purpose of harassing the victim.

New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Act

In 1991, state legislators ruled that domestic violence is a crime against society, and enacted the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to outline protections for victims and penalties for convicted abusers. The act works in connection with existing laws that regulate behaviors for abuse (harassment, violence, stalking, murder, etc.), but heighten the criminality of violent acts performed against a spouse or partner.

Under the Domestic Violence Act, victims are allowed to file for criminal relief or civil relief, as the wife did in this case. Civil relief allows an alleged victim to seek a restraining order against the violent partner, but does not necessarily result in criminal charges being filed. Criminal relief can provide additional protection and, while the case is pending, the alleged abuser may remain in jail, or may otherwise be restricted from having any contact with the alleged victim.

For someone who loses his or her temper, this can seem like an extreme reaction—a restraining order can keep the named abuser from going home, or visiting with his or her family, or potentially even being in certain places. In the case of the husband and wife at the basketball game, the man admitted to losing his temper and getting angry, but the courts concluded that this admission did not mean the man was not intending to harass his wife as well. Using vulgar, coarse language to address his spouse indicated the husband’s intention to bother his wife, the court ruled.

At The Gorman Law Firm, Scott Gorman represents anyone who has been accused of domestic violence or spousal abuse. For more information regarding swearing and spousal communication, contact an Essex County domestic violence attorney at the firm today.

Published in Categories: Domestic Violence