Is Recording My Spouse Without Their Knowledge Stalking Under N.J. Law?

Is Recording My Spouse Without Their Knowledge Stalking Under N.J. Law?

Pursuant to New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, leaving an iPhone, iPad or any recording device behind so that you may monitor your spouse without their knowledge would be deemed to be stalking. The restraining order lawyers at our East Brunswick, New Jersey law firm have watched technology enhance a person’s ability to stalk someone’s spouse or significant other. In a recent New Jersey’s Appellate Court reviewed by all of our attorneys confirmed that a husband who left hid their iPad or iPhone recording under their bed of their spouse in order to monitor their behavior to be stalking as per New Jersey domestic violence law. Therefore, the final restraining order entered by the trial judge of the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey shall stand.

In E.D.B. v. D.S., the parties were married in 2007. E.D.B. (“Ellen”) told D.S. (“Daniel”) that she wanted a divorce in 2015. The parties and their children continued to live together despite the pending divorce. During that time, both parties began relationships with other people. In March 2017, after confirming that Daniel was spying on her in their home, Ellen filed a domestic violence action pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. In response, Daniel also filed a domestic violence complaint against Ellen. A four-day hearing was held in the Superior Court of New Jersey Family Part to address the complaints. The trial court judge found that Daniel had stalked Ellen by spying on her; therefore, the judge entered a final restraining order against Daniel. The judge also denied Daniel’s request for a final restraining order against Ellen. The judge found that Ellen did not harass Daniel and awarded Ellen $14,750 in attorney’s fees and $2,000 in damages. Daniel then appealed the trial court’s decision.

On appeal, Daniel argued that the trial court was wrong to find that there was sufficient evidence to find the predicate act of stalking was committed. A predicate act is a prior crime or offense similar to the crime or offense alleged. Specifically, Daniel argued that the court was wrong to find that Ellen could have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the home office or Daniel’s bedroom. Additionally, Daniel argued that Ellen did not fear for her safety, that a final restraining order was not necessary to prevent further abuse, that Ellen should not have been awarded attorney’s fees, and that Ellen should not have been awarded damages. The New Jersey Appellate Division found Daniel’s arguments to be meritless. The Appellate Division stated that the trial court judge correctly interpreted Daniel’s actions under the stalking statute in support of Ellen’s domestic violence claim. The Appellate Division reasoned that Daniel placed an iPad in the parties’ shared home office and an iPhone under his bed in order to record and/or monitor Ellen’s actions in the parties’ home. The trial judge did not believe that Daniel placed the devices in those locations in order to protect his privacy and personal affects. The judge found that the devices were not pointed at Daniel’s papers or things, but were pointed into the hallway, which led the judge to conclude Daniel’s real intent was to eavesdrop on Ellen’s conversations for the divorce. The Appellate Division found that there was adequate and ample evidence to support the trial judge’s finding that a final restraining order was necessary.

Additionally, the Appellate Division agreed that Daniel’s conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer emotional distress. The Appellate Division also agreed that there was adequate evidence to make Silver findings. The court reasoned that prior to Daniel’s surveillance of Ellen, Daniel placed a tracking device in Ellen’s car; therefore, a final restraining order was necessary under Silver to prevent further harm or abuse. Lastly, the Appellate Division found that the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees was proper. The Appellate Division reasoned that Ellen was not only entitled to statutory fees incurred in pursuing her complaint, but also in the defense of Daniel’s cross-complaint. The court stated that Daniel incorrectly relied on M.W. v. R.L., 286 N.J. Super 408 because Ellen needed to defend herself from Daniel’s meritless cross-complaint while also prosecuting her own complaint. Ultimately, the Appellate Division agreed with the trial court and upheld the entering of a final restraining order as well as an award of attorney’s fees.

Please contact the New Jersey restraining order attorneys at (732) 783-5588 if you or a loved one is facing a dangerous situation such as stalking.

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