When Does "Just Checking In" on an Ex Become Harassment or Stalking?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Aug 30, 2022 | 0 Comments

Breakups are supposed to bring closure to relationships, right? Well, yes, but often at least one partner cannot quite let go. Maybe this partner continues with phone calls, emails, texts, uninvited knocks on the door, "watching" from afar, or even threats of one sort or another. This partner, unable to let go, thinks of such contacts as acts of caring or harmless instances of "checking in." But the partner on the other end of these contacts reads things quite differently and wants it all to stop.

Crossing the Line

When has the offending partner crossed the line, moving from legally permissible contact to illegal harassment or stalking? Let's start with the question of harassment. In New Jersey, section 2C:33-34 of the state legal code identifies these activities as harassment:

  • Making communications anonymously at inconvenient hours, with offensive language or in any other manner likely to annoy or alarm.
  • Striking, kicking, shoving, or otherwise touching someone in an offensive way.
  • Threatening to strike or touch someone.
  • Engaging in other alarming conduct or repeatedly attempting to alarm or annoy someone.

Statute 2C:33-34 is quite broad, and interpretations might differ. While threatening phone calls and physical contact would constitute harassment under this statute, for instance, persistent text messages that continue even after the sender has been asked to stop are in a gray area. In general, behavior that is annoying, threatening, or made at unreasonable times of day might be harassment.

Stalking is similar to harassment, but harassing behavior is intended to annoy while stalking involves following and surveilling another person. New Jersey state statute 2C:12-10 says that stalking is "purposeful conduct directed at specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury or death to himself or family member and knowingly, recklessly, or negligently places person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or death to himself or family member."

Actions that would fall under this definition can include following someone from place to place or frequent text messages or phone calls. Any behavior that suggests one person is keeping tabs on another's movements or activities without their permission, and communicating with them in a threatening way, would be considered stalking.

What to Do when the Line has been Crossed

If your ex has crossed the line from just checking in to what seems like harassment or stalking, do the following:

  • Save all materials you receive. These might be emails, letters, videos, social media posts, pictures, etc. If you end up taking legal action down the road, having a paper trail of your ex's communications will be invaluable.
  • Do not respond to your ex's attempts to contact you. Block their number in your phone so you don't receive their calls and texts.
  • Inform family and friends about what is happening and advise them not to respond to your ex's inquiries.

You Need Legal Help

At a certain point, you might have to take legal action. This might include obtaining a restraining order. The law governing harassment and stalking is complex. If you need help, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686. Attorney Lento and his expert team have extensive experience dealing with harassment and stalking issues and can advise you of your options.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings! He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and protects their interests.


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