According to the New Jersey Appellate Division, a “dating relationship” in the context of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A 2C:25-17 to 35 can be just sexting, or the exchange of highly personal text messages.
In the case of C.C. v. J.A.H, (App. Div. 2020) the court noted that although the two people never went on a traditional in person date, they were involved in a proliferate and exceedingly intimate relationship because they exchanged nearly 1300 highly personal text messages that were sexually explicit and suggestive in nature.
The Oxford dictionary simply defines sexting as sending sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone. Sexting is becoming more common among adults and teenagers. According to the Journal JAME Pediatrics, about 27% of teens have received a sext message.
The parties met at a fitness center where one was the general manager and the other a new member. Other than their encounter at the gym, the parties never experienced a single in-person “date.” They never visited each other’s homes, or met each other’s friends or family members. The parties never engaged in sexual relations, kissed, or even held hands.
The New Jersey Appellate Division in an opinion dated May 5, 2020 noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has created an inability to meet in-person on traditional dates. Many people are accessing internet websites and applications to develop relationships virtually.
In 2012, the Appellate Division identified certain factors which could define a dating relationship. These factors were:
1. Was there a minimal social interpersonal bonding of the parties over and above a mere casual fraternization?
2. How long did the alleged dating activities continue prior to the acts of domestic violence alleged?
3. What were the nature and frequency of the parties’ interactions?
4. What were the parties’ ongoing expectations with respect to the relationship, either individually or jointly?
5. Did the parties demonstrate an affirmation of their relationship before others by statement or conduct?
6. Are there any other reasons unique to the case that support or detract from a finding that a “dating relationship” exists?
S.K. v. J.H. N.J. Super. 230 (App. Div. 2012)
Andrews v. Rutherford, 363 N.J. Super. 252, 260 (Ct. Div. 2003)
However, at the current time of May, 2020, the court has stated these factors are not to be applied in a rigid manner as “dating is a loose concept undoubtedly defined differently by members of different socio-economic groups and from one generation to the next.
Even though the parties’ dating relationship was “peculiar” because they never experienced an in-person date, the court acknowledged the prevalence of virtual communications in the ever-changing world. Text messaging and other forms of electronic communication enable rapid yet deep interactions at all hours. Those communications can form bonds that may be no less intimate than sharing a dinner or movie. Nor is the lack of sexual relations dispositive. Because “dating is a loose concept” that changes “from one generation to the next,” the volume and intensity of text message communications can establish a dating relationship, even in the absence of a traditional in-person date.
In this case, after the lady ended the relationship, the man sent many vulgar, insulting and threatening text messages. The court issued a Final Restraining Order against him.
The moral of the story is that in this ever changing world we currently live in as evidenced by the Corona virus situation, especially in New Jersey where they State will remain shut down at least into June of 2020, people must be careful not to even send inappropriate and vulgar and threatening text messages as you may end up with a permanent restraining order.
The law does evolve with society over time. Another example is that is unlawful to engage in cyber bullying. N.J.S.A. 2C: 33-4.1 cyber bullying or cyber harassment is an electronic communication online to an individual or through a social networking site that is intended to harass another and includes a threat of injury, emotional or physical harm to a person or property.
If you have a temporary restraining order entered against you or are charged with cyber bullying call one of our experienced attorneys who will explain the law to your and properly defend you.