NJ Laws That Protect Against Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation

This Page Identifies NJ Civil and Criminal Laws That Protect the Elderly

NJ has many laws against elder abuse and financial exploitation.  The two primary laws are the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and the Adult Protective Services Act. There are also additional criminal and civil actions that can be filed against an abuser which are very effective. I’ll identify them and also try to simplify these laws and regulations for you to understand so make sure you read the entirety of this page.

Laws That Protect the New Jersey Aging Population

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 is a series of laws found in the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. A violation of this law(s) is a criminal act.  It prohibits the mistreatment of elderly persons in several very specified ways.  The law is long and involved but starts off with a series of definitions.  Definitions are always important when you’re reading and interpreting laws.

Definition of an Elderly Victim of Abuse Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and Other Civil Laws

A victim of domestic violence is defined as a person (it’s gender neutral) over the age of 18, or an emancipated minor, who is abused by a spouse, a person with whom the victim has a child in common, any former or present household member, or a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.  As you can see, the definition is quite broad and covers many persons previously excluded from the law’s protection, such as those abused by a live-in caretaker, non-blood relatives (such as sons-in-law), etc. who are or were former household members.

Definition of a Vulnerable Adult Under the NJ Adult Protective Act

A “VULNERABLE ADULT” means a person 18 years of age or older who resides in a community setting and who, because of a physical or mental illness, disability, or deficiency, lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make, communicate, or carry out decisions concerning his/her well-being and is the subject of abuse, neglect or exploitation.   A person is not deemed to be a vulnerable adult and the subject of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or in need of protective services for the sole reason that the person is being furnished nonmedical treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone or in accordance with a recognized religious method of healing in lieu of medical treatment, and in accordance with the tenets and practices of the person’s established religious tradition.

Types of Abuse Covered Under NJ Law

The Act covers physical, sexual or emotional abuse that puts a victim in physical fear.

Procedure to Initiate a Complaint for Domestic Violence

A victim or his/her representative may file a complaint alleging domestic violence with the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.  Each county has a Superior Court. Your County Superior Court is generally located in the municipality where your County government Board of County Commissioners is located.  The filing of a civil complaint for domestic violence does not prevent the filing of a criminal complaint for the same alleged act of abuse.  You can also go to your local police department and file a complaint for domestic violence.

It is important to note that NJ law allows a representative of a victim to seek protection for the person who is being abused, for example, a child who lives geographically distant can act for a parent or grandparent in an abusive environment in New Jersey.  You don’t need an attorney to file the complaint. In our state, a temporary restraining order can be entered against the alleged abuser even before a final decision is reached. This restraining order will be granted by either a judge of the Superior Court, family Part or by a Domestic Violence Hearing Officer.

What happens if a restraining order is needed on a weekend or after hours when the Superior Court is closed? In this case you can call your local police department who can/will assist in obtaining a temporary restraining order from a municipal court judge.

I have written extensively about elder abuse and financial exploitation of the elderly under New Jersey’s Domestic Violence laws.  If you want to learn about how the domestic violence laws of NJ can protect an elderly and vulnerable person from abuse and exploitation, I encourage you to visit my dedicated website to learn how this law can protect your loved one (click here).

The Adult Protective Services Act of New Jersey

It is important to know that the Adult Protective Services Act applies to the abuse of older persons living in the community whether alone or with others, such as family members.  (NJS 52:27D-407).

The Adult Protective Services Act Does Not Cover Certain Residential Institutional Settings

The New Jersey Adult Protective Services Act (APS) became law on February 7, 1994.  If an APS worker determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that a person has or is likely to become a vulnerable adult and/or  his/her legal guardian consents, the APS worker can provide or arrange for  protective services , including making referrals to State, County and local agencies, hospitals or organizations.

The New Jersey Adult Protective Services Act (APS) was adopted to protect the safety and well-being of the elderly and adults with disabilities living in the community, who are in danger of being mistreated or neglected; and/or are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm; and/or have no one to assist them.

It does not apply to individuals residing in institutional facilities, such as residential health care facilities, assisted living residences, nursing homes, or boarding homes or “any other facility or living arrangement subject to licensure by, operated by, or under contract with, a State department agency.” (NJS 52:27D-407).

An institutionalized person age 60 years or older is protected from institutional abuse under the provisions found in the Mandatory Adult Abuse and Exploitation Reporting Law, NJSA 52:27G-7.1 et seq.  This law applies to individuals 60 years of age and older who reside in an institutional facility as described above.  This law addresses the relationship between an elderly person and his/her institutional caretaker. A caretaker is a person employed by a facility to provide care of services to an elderly person, including the facility’s administrator.  Institutions addressed by that law include public and private facilities that offer health or related services to elders and are subject to regulations, inspection and government supervision, such as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, convalescent homes, rehabilitation facilities, residential health care facilities, veterans’ hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, mental hospitals, mental retardation facilities, day care facilities and medical day care facilities.  NJSA 52:27g(2).

Reporting the Abuse of an Elderly Person to Law Enforcement Under New Jersey Law

Reporting suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult living in the community to APS is voluntary in New Jersey.  If a report is made, it will generally contain the name and address of the vulnerable adult, the name and address of the caretaker, if any, the nature and possible extent of the vulnerable adult’s injury or condition as a result of abuse, neglect or exploitation; and any other information that the person making the report believes may be helpful.  A person who makes a report to APS, provides information regarding abuse of a vulnerable adult, or testifies at a proceeding, is granted immunity, unless he or she is acting in bad faith or with malice.

Once contacted, an investigation is supposed to be initiated within 72 hours and a face to face meeting with the alleged vulnerable person is to be conducted by a trained social worker. This interview is private and confidential. This social worker will perform a preliminary assessment (and opinion) on whether the alleged vulnerable person does or does not have sufficient understanding and/or capacity to make, communicate or carry out decisions concerning his or her well-being because of a physical or mental illness, disability and is the likely subject of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

If such a finding is made the agency will generally take action to safeguard the welfare of the person until a protective environment and support system is put in place.

The existence of Adult Protective Services agencies is mandated within each County of New Jersey, which receives funding and coordination through the Division of Aging and Community offices.  Each County agency receives and investigates reports of adult abuse, exploitation and or neglect in the community.  For example;  Monmouth County, Ocean County, Middlesex County and Mercer County each has a designated  county “Adult Protective Services Agency” as does each of the remaining 18 counties in New Jersey.  You can “Google”, “Bing” or “Yahoo” Adult Protective Services and the name of your county to find the nearest agency near you.

You need to understand that APS has several practical and legal limitations which may frustrate those concerned with the safety and well-being of an elderly person. If you become frustrated, then call me immediately! Our firm has significant experience in the area of elder abuse as well as working with APS and can help you protect the person you so deeply care about. I welcome you to call me personally toll-free (855) 376-5291 or email me at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.

New Jersey’s Laws on Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation

Here is the contact information for Adult Protective Services in each of the 21 counties of New Jersey:


Atlantic County Division of Intergenerational Services

Shoreview Building, Room 210
101 South Shore Road
Northfield, NJ 08225
Phone: 609-645-5965
After Hrs: 1-888-426-9243 or 911
FOCUS, Hispanic Center for Human Dev., Inc.

441-443 Broad St.
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone: 866-903-6287
After Hrs: 911, local police, first aid or hospital
Morris County Office of Temporary Assistance

340 West Hanover Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
Phone: 973-326-7282
After Hrs: 911 or Sheriff’s Comm. Ctr. at 973-285-2900
Catholic Community Services

505 South Avenue E
Cranford, NJ 07016
Phone: 908-497-3902
After Hrs: 911 or local police
Bergen County Board of Social Services

218 Route 17 North
Rochelle Park, NJ 07662
Phone: 201-368-4300
After Hrs: 1-800-624-0275
Gloucester County Board of Social Services

400 Hollydell Drive
Sewell, NJ 08080
Phone: 856-582-9200, 856-256-2209, 856-256-2280
After Hrs: 1-800-648-0132
Ocean County Board of Social Services

1027 Hooper Avenue
P.O. Box 547
Toms River, NJ 08754
Phone: 732-286-5933, 732-286-5929
After Hrs: 732-240-6100, 609-693-5834
Warren County Division of Senior Services

165 County Route 519 South
Belvidere, NJ 07823
Phone: 908-475-6591
After Hrs: 911 or local police
Burlington County Board of Social Services

Human Services Facility
795 Woodlane Road
Mount Holly, NJ 08060
Phone: 609-518-4793 Ext. 4797
After Hrs: 911
Hunterdon County Department of Human Services

Division of Social Services
PO Box 2900
Flemington, NJ 08822-2900
Phone: 908-788-1300
After Hrs: 911
Passaic County Board of Social Services

80 Hamilton Street
Paterson, NJ 07505-2057
Phone: 973-881-2616
After Hrs: 973-345-2676
Camden County Board of Social Services

600 Market Street, Lower Level
Camden, NJ 08102
Phone: 856-225-8191
After Hrs: contact local police or 911
Mercer County Board of Social Services

200 Woolverton Street
Trenton, NJ 08650
Phone: 609-989-4320
After Hrs: 911
Salem County Office on Aging

98 Market Street
Salem, NJ 08079
Phone: 856-339-8622
After Hrs: call 911
Cape May County Board of Social Services

4005 Route 9 South
Rio Grande, NJ 08242
Phone: 609-886-6200, ask for Intake Social Worker
After Hrs: contact local police or 911
Family and Children Services

191 Bath Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
Phone: 732-745-3635
After Hrs: 911 or local police, 732-745-3635 to leave a message for the next business day
Somerset County Board of Social Services

73 East High Street
Somerville, NJ 08876-1144
Phone: 908-526-8800
After Hrs: 1-800-287-3607
Resources for Independent Living

614 E. Landis Avenue
Vineland, NJ 08360
Phone: 856-825-0255
After Hrs: contact local police or 911
Family and Children Services of Monmouth County

191 Bath Ave.
Long Branch, NJ 07740
Phone: 732-531-9191
After Hrs: 911 or local police, 732-531-9191 to leave a message for the next business day
Sussex County Division of Social Services

P.O. Box 218
83 Spring Street
Newton, NJ 07860
Phone: 973-383-3600 Ext. 5170, 973-383-3600 Ext. 5150
After Hrs: 911 or local police































Civil and Criminal Laws That Specifically Address Elder Financial Abuse and Exploitation

Perhaps the most frequent calls I receive concerning elder abuse involve suspected or actual financial abuse and exploitation of an older person. As I reflect upon my many years of working with families, I think I can accurately state that the most frequent perpetrators and victim(s) (in the older listed) are as follows:

  • An adult child(ren) and a parent or parents (as an aside, it is generally a single or married adult child acting alone, but often in consult with their spouse. Much less frequently is it a conspiracy between multiple children and their parent).
  • A second spouse married at a later age to his or her now older and declining spouse. Often the childr(en) and sometimes even the grandchildren of the second spouse become involved with their parent in the financial affairs of their step-parent.
  • A caretaker (often foreign born) who assumes the care and custody of an older and widowed man who is heavily reliant both physically and emotionally upon the care and assistance of the caretaker.
  • Finally, and to a lesser extent, a sibling(s), next of kin, or other blood relative of the older family member.

What is Considered Financial Abuse of the Elderly?

The most severe financial abuse qualifies as a crime when it depletes the financial resources of older adults to their economic detriment. Theft, fraud, misuse of a person’s assets, or credit and the use of undue influence to gain control of an older person’s money or property are frequent examples of potential criminal acts. Another example is financial coercion which is a financial change added to an existing credit account by an abuser by means of deception, fraud, or coercion.

Civil Actions to Address Elderly Financial Abuse

When one suspects (or confirms) elder financial abuse and/or exploitation, there are a number of potential civil actions that can be brought against the perpetrator.

NJ has a law called the “Safeguarding Against Financial Exploitation Act” that establishes protections from financial exploitation for vulnerable adults. It can be found at N.J.S.A. 49:3-84.

The law defines an eligible person (a/k/a) a vulnerable adult as a person 65 years of age or older or a person subject to the Adult Protective Services Act.

The law further provides that when an eligible person, defined as any agent, investment advisor, or representative believes that financial exploitation of an eligible person has occurred or is being attempted, the qualified individual shall notify any third-party previously designated by the eligible adult of the suspected fraud or any failures to act by the elderly person. In response, the broker dealer or investment advisor may delay a disbursement from an account to the eligible individual or amount on which an eligible adult is a beneficiary if to do so may stop financial exploitation. What is also great about this law is that the financial advisor can disclose and provide access or provide copies of records to law enforcement and agencies charged with administering state.

How Can the Financial Industry Regulate FINRA to Help in Combatting Elder Financial Abuse and Exploitation?

FINRA as it is commonly called is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and is a government authorized organization that oversees U.S. broker dealers. If your financial advisor is engaged in securities (i.e., stocks), he or she must be registered with FINRA. Its purpose is to safeguard the public against fraud and bad practices, especially against the bad practices of security brokers and financial advisors and elder financial predators.

FINRA rules provide members with ways to respond to situations in which they have a reasonable basis to believe that financial exploitation has occurred, is occurring, has been attempted or will be attempted. Members can better protect their customers from financial exploitation if they have the ability to contact a customer’s designated trusted contact person and, when appropriate, place a temporary hold on a disbursement of funds or securities from a customer’s account.
> FiNRA Rule 4542 (Customer Account Information) requires members to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name of and contact information for a trusted contact person upon the opening of a non-institutional customer’s account or when updating account information for a non-institutional account.
The trusted contact person is intended to be a resource for the member in administering the customer’s account, protecting assets and responding to possible financial exploitation.
> FiNRA Rule 2165 (Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults) permits, under FINRA rules, a member that reasonably believes that financial exploitation has occurred, is occurring, has been attempted or will be attempted to place a temporary hold on the disbursement of funds or securities from the
account of a “specified adult” customer. Specified adults include a natural person age 65 and older or a natural person age 18 and older who the member reasonably believes has a mental or physical impairment that renders the individual unable to protect his or her own interests.

Freezing a Bank Account if Fraud or Exploitation is Alleged

Most if not all NJ banks have policies on how they deal with claims of fraud and financial exploitation. The first place to start in your efforts to stop or slow down the withdrawal of funds is with the local bank branch and speak with the branch manager to place a hold on disbursements from an account. Banks are not required to freeze a customer’s account merely on the word of a family member, concerned friend, even a power of attorney unless and until more is proven so finding out exactly what the bank requires to place a hold or temporary freeze is critical.

Banks also recognize that some of their customers are vulnerable to fraudulent schemes and outright theft because of physical or mental illness, disability or age and/or weakness. NJ has enacted laws that authorize NJ banks to release the financial records of their customer accounts to law enforcement, adult protective services, or both when it suspects illegal activity is or will be taking place, the result of which a vulnerable or senior customer will be defrauded.

We will often send a freeze letter to a bank, brokerage firm and financial planners.

Demanding that an account be frozen under the NJ Banking Act of 1988 found at N.J.S.A. 17:9A-1 et. seq.  It has been successful for us when employed with direct personal communication with qualifying individuals within the institutional chain of command.

Have questions about elder abuse laws in New Jersey or a case involving elder abuse & adult protective services in New Jersey?  Contact Fredrick P. Niemann, a NJ Elder Abuse Attorney toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  He will sit and discuss your case and help you evaluate whether an actionable case of elder abuse exists.  He looks forward to assisting you.

Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.


Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Elder Abuse Attorney

Adult Protective Services | Report of Elder Abuse in NJ
Domestic Violence Act