Who is Considered a Victim Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act?

Live-in caretakers can be considered household members under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act

Some might argue that there is no relationship more vulnerable than the relationship a parent has with the person who cares for his/her children regularly. I would agree, for a lot of reasons. But when we are hiring people to care for our children, we rarely (if ever?) contemplate the harm a caretaker can potentially inflict upon us as parents and what we would do in those situations.

Most recently, the Superior Court was asked to address the relationship between a live-in caretaker (the “nanny”) and her employer (the “mother”). In E.S. v. C.D., the nanny had lived with the family for 11 months. She was terminated for having assaulted the mother’s child. To add insult to injury, following her termination, the nanny allegedly made multiple phone calls and sent threatening and harassing text messages to the mother. The mother sought a restraining order against the nanny.

Restraining orders are most commonly discussed in the context of either married couples or couples involved in a romantic relationship and living together. On occasion, we are reminded that the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act also covers relationships between parents/children and siblings, provided they are members of the same household. Specifically, under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19), requires that the relationship between the parties be that of marriage, divorce, living together in the same household at present or in the path, dating relationship, or parties with a child in common.

Relying on the six-prong test, initially reached in Coleman v. Romano, the Court in E.S. v. C.D examined the following to determine if the mother could pursue a restraining order against her children’s nanny.

  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.

The Court noted that the caretaker’s employment provided her with insight into the child’s nature and to that of the employer, thereby making the employer vulnerable to the caretaker’s personal attacks. In addition, the Court found that the harassment and threats occurred after the nanny was terminated, and there was no intervening act giving cause for this type of behavior.

The Court found that the mother could pursue a restraining order against the nanny. In closing, the Court noted that Victims of domestic violence come from all social and economic backgrounds, and notwithstanding the economic relationship of the parties, the nanny and the mother were former household members. Accordingly, this relationship was covered under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

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