Domestic Violence Household Member

In Desiato v. Abbott, 261 N.J. Super. 30, 32, 617 A.2d 678 (Ch.Div.1992), the court, in deciding that plaintiff was a "household member" within the meaning of the Domestic Violence Act, relied upon the following facts: Plaintiff had remained overnight at defendant's residence on several occasions during a weekend or a mid-week night and the parties were constant companions. (Plaintiff) maintained clothes, jewelry and other personal effects at defendant's residence. The court noted that to qualify as a "household member requires more than a casual dating relationship but less than the parties residing together." Id. at 34, 617 A.2d 678. The court set forth the "following criteria, by way of example and not limitation," to be applied "on a case by case" basis to determine whether the facts establish a "family-like setting" within the meaning of the Domestic Violence Act: Constancy of the relationship. Over-night stays at each other's residence. Personalty items such as jewelry, clothing and personal grooming effects stored at each other's residences. Shared property arrangements, such as automobile usage, access to each other's bank accounts and one mailing address for billing or other legal purposes. Familiarity with each other's siblings and parents socially in dining and/or entertainment activities together, and/or attendance together at extended family functions such as weddings. Ibid. The Court in concluding that a girlfriend was a household member within the meaning of the Act, even though the parties had never married or shared the same legal residence, noted that: While the Act itself does not define ("present or former household member"), the Legislative Declaration under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-18 states, in part, that ". . . it is the responsibility of the Courts to protect the victims of violence that occurs in a family or family-like setting by providing access to both emergent and long-term civil and criminal remedies and sanctions, and by ordering those remedies and sanctions that are available to assure the safety of the victims and the public. To that end, the Legislature encourages . . . the broad application of the remedies available under this Act in the civil and criminals Courts of this State." This stated legislative intent mandates this court to liberally construe the remedies available and to protect any victim of violence occurring in a "family or family-like setting". the phraseology of "family-like setting" invites by its very term a liberal interpretation. a flexible approach is warranted. ". . .The Legislature has recognized that Courts' equitable powers are particularly appropriate in the context of domestic relations", and the Act's Legislative Declaration has encompassed domestic violence in this reasoning. Analysis of the legislative history shows that the language of the former domestic violence statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-3, required a victim to have cohabited, meaning having resided together in the same living quarters, with the defendant. The new Act deleted this definition of victim and adopted the broader term "household member". Although the Act does not define "household member", a fortiori, it cannot mean to hold residency and cohabitation as a prerequisite. "Household" is not a word of art and is a word of uncertain meaning. "Its meaning is not confined within certain commonly known and universally accepted limits." "Household" is generally treated to be a more comprehensive term than family, and most courts acknowledge that the term "family" itself is "variable and capable of different definitions depending on the context in which it is used."