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A recent New Jersey case addressed a disturbing scenario for any parent.  In E.S. v. C.D., a nanny was fired for assaulting a child.  After being fired, the nanny began harassing the child’s parents. The parents sought a restraining order against the former nanny under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (hereafter, the “PDVA”), even though the PDVA does not specifically include parent-nanny relationships.  Before the trial Court could even address the merits of the request, it had to determine for the first time whether the PDVA applied to solely economic relationships.

In holding that the PDVA applied to parent-nanny relationships, the trial Court found that the nanny had been hired on a full-time, live-in basis, and that the PDVA defines victims of domestic violence to include any person eighteen years or older who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person who “was at any time a household member.”

The trial Court noted that the PDVA sets forth 6 factors in determining whether a party qualifies as a household member: 1) the nature and duration of the prior relationship; 2) whether the past domestic violence relationship provided a special opportunity for abuse and controlling behavior; 3) the passage of time since the end of the relationship; 4) the extent and nature of any intervening contacts; 5) the nature of the precipitating incident; and 6) the likelihood of ongoing contact or relationship.

While the nanny had no right to or expectation of a continued relationship with the plaintiff and/or her child after being fired, the Court noted that it was the plaintiff, not the defendant, who was being victimized. The defendant lived in the home long enough to gain the insight into plaintiff and her child that made them vulnerable to the defendant’s subsequent harassing conduct. The Court also found other factors were present including the likelihood of more contacts because of the use of cell phones and social media.

In deciding that the plaintiff was entitled to PDVA protection, the Court further remarked that prior cases had approved restraining orders in other situations where individuals resided together in an economic rather than a familial, personal, romantic, or sexual relationship.

The takeaway for parents is that New Jersey’s domestic violence laws do apply outside the scope of traditional family/personal relationships, such as a live-in nanny. If someone is a member of the household for whatever reason, they can be a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence.

If you are or your child is a victim of domestic violence, contact us for assistance.

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