PARSIPPANY, N.J., Oct. 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- As October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, Bari Z. Weinberger, family law expert and managing partner of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group, has issued a call for more comprehensive laws and procedures to protect victims of forced marriage in the state.
Forced marriage is a marriage that takes place without the consent of one or both parties as the result of fraud, coercion, duress, abuse, violence or other malfeasance. "Under some interpretations, forced marriage refers to any marriage of a person below the age of legal consent...aka 'child marriage.' Gay and transgender people are also at special risk," explains Weinberger.
In her analysis of forced marriage laws published recently in the New Jersey Law Journal, Weinberger highlighted New Jersey's lack of legal guidance in this area. "Forced marriage is recognized by the U.S. State Department as a human rights abuse, but only nine states have laws that directly address forced marriage...and unfortunately, New Jersey is not one of these states. Without clear legal procedures in place, victims of forced marriage have become New Jersey's forgotten victims of domestic abuse," Weinberger describes.
For example, if a child needs protection against a parent attempting to force the child into a ceremonial or religious marriage in New Jersey (in 2018 the legal age for civil marriage was raised to 18 in the state) or marrying in a different state with a lower marriage age, that child is limited in the help they can pursue. "An unemancipated minor cannot take out a temporary restraining order against an abusively coercive parent...even when kidnapping or false imprisonment has taken place...currently the matter would need to go through DCP&P as a child endangerment investigation, which is different," Weinberger clarifies.
According to the Tahirih Justice Center, statistics show that forced marriage is not limited to any particular group, but does appear to be more common in certain African, Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern immigrant communities, and both immigrant and non-immigrant communities whose members belong to conservative religious groups.
As Weinberger points out, "New Jersey is home to many of these at-risk groups...so we can't turn a blind eye and just hope that victims can somehow figure out the maze of laws and which ones may or may not apply to them. We need to simplify the system so victims can receive protection without delay."
To make a difference, Weinberger encourages New Jersey lawmakers to look to the United Kingdom's Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, which established special forced marriage protective orders (FMPO) that are available to all victims, including minors. FMPOs can restrain anyone directly attempting to force a marriage and anyone who assists, counsels, encourages or conspires with such a person, including a parent.
October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month is the perfect time to take action on forced marriage, according to Weinberger.
"New Jersey has already shown it can take a leading stance in this area with the passage of 2018's civil marriage age revision. It's time to take another important step forward and establish restraining orders that are specific to the complex issues involved in forced marriage."
Free resources for victims of domestic violence and abuse can be found on the Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group website.
About Bari Z. Weinberger, Esq.
Family law expert and certified matrimonial law attorney, Bari Z. Weinberger, is the founder and managing partner of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group, a family law firm serving divorce and family law clients throughout New Jersey with offices in key locations throughout New Jersey. Ms. Weinberger is a certified matrimonial attorney and experienced family law mediator. She is also an advocate for domestic violence victims, published author, and frequent media contributor on divorce and family law for both local and national audiences.
SOURCE Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group