Temporary Restraining Orders in New Jersey
In New Jersey, domestic violence victims can seek protective or restraining orders to be protected from their abusers. These orders restrict the restrained people from contacting or coming within a specific distance of the protected parties. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act was passed in 1982 and provides for restraining orders. This law includes multiple types of crimes and relationships for which abuse victims can ask for protection. Here is what you need to know about restraining orders in New Jersey from the Ziegler Law Group, LLC.
How Do Restraining Orders Work in NJ?
The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act is found at N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq. There are two types of restraining orders in New Jersey, including temporary restraining orders and final restraining orders. Both types are issued by judges after considering the request and evidence.
When a court issues a restraining order, the person who is named in the order will be ordered not to contact the protected person or to come within a specific distance of the person, their home, school, or workplace within a specific duration. Restraining orders are meant to protect domestic violence victims from future acts of abuse and also protect the victim's family and other relevant people. Since restraining orders are court orders, they don't expire just because the victim and the perpetrator reconcile. Even if contact is willingly made between the parties, the defendant can be charged with violating a restraining order.
Defining Domestic Violence in New Jersey
Domestic violence includes single acts or patterns of abuse, including verbal, sexual, and physical actions, that are perpetrated by one party against another in the following relationships:
- Current or previous romantic relationships
- Share a child together
- Expect a child together
- Live together
Domestic violence occurs when one of the following predicate acts occurs:
- Terroristic threats
- Sexual assault
- Criminal coercion
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal restraint
- Criminal trespass
- False imprisonment
- Criminal sexual contact
Gender does not matter in domestic violence determinations. Instead, people of any gender can be the victim of domestic violence and get a restraining order against an abuser of the same or another gender.
A current or former spouse, household member, someone who is in or has had a romantic relationship with, and an expectant parent or someone who shares a child with the abuser can file a request for a restraining order. Emancipated minors can request restraining orders or be the subject of them. An unemancipated minor who is the abuser will not be considered to have engaged in domestic violence but will rather face a juvenile delinquency proceeding.
When an unemancipated minor is a stalking victim, a parent or guardian can request a restraining order on behalf of the child. The abuser does not have to have a conviction for a temporary restraining order to be issued by a court.
Getting a Temporary Restraining Order in NJ
Getting a temporary restraining order involves the following steps:
- Obtain the forms from the Superior Court or a police station in the county in which you live, where the abuser lives, or where the domestic violence occurred.
- Complete the forms and file a complaint for a restraining order with a local police station or the Superior Court's Family Division.
- File the complaint for a TRO at the court between 8:30 and 4 pm on Monday through Friday or at a police station between 8:30 to 4 pm on Monday through Friday or on the weekends
If you need a temporary restraining order after hours, you can file a request at the municipal court if it is open. You can also call the police and ask them to contact an on-call judge who can issue a TRO.
When you go to the court or police station, tell the clerk that you want to file a complaint for a temporary restraining order and are a victim of domestic violence. The court will give you the forms and might help you with filling them out. However, they can't provide you with legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should speak with a divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC.
When you fill out the forms, make sure you carefully read them and provide as much information as possible about the incident or incidents of domestic violence, including the location where the abuse occurred, the times, any injuries you suffered, whether a weapon was involved, and any threats the abuser made. After you have filled out the forms, sign them in front of a notary public or a judge.
Once you have completed the petition, a judge will review it and decide whether to grant a TRO. The court will issue a TRO if it believes that you are in immediate danger, and the TRO will stay in effect until the date of the final hearing. The hearing will typically be scheduled within 10 days.
Temporary Restraining Orders vs. Final Restraining Orders
Temporary restraining orders are ex parte orders, which means they can be issued without the defendant having the opportunity to present evidence. They are temporary orders to protect a domestic violence victim from the abuser until the final restraining order hearing can be held. If the request is submitted to the police, an officer will contact a municipal court judge. The judge will hear the request and might issue the restraining order over the phone or in person. If the complaint is filed in the Superior Court, a judge or hearing officer will hear the case and might issue the TRO.
Once a TRO is issued, the police will serve the order to the defendant along with a summons to appear at the final hearing. If the abuser has any firearms, the police will seize them. If the defendant lives with the plaintiff, they will be ordered to leave and stay away from the home as long as the TRO remains in effect. The TRO will remain in effect until it is removed, replaced with a final order, or extended by the court.
A TRO includes the following restrictions on the defendant:
- Prohibits the defendant from returning to the shared home except to gather personal belongings in the presence of a police officer at a specific date and time
- Restricts the defendant from possessing firearms except for possessing them on duty as a military service member or police officer
- Orders the police to search for and confiscate weapons and firearms permits
- Prevents the defendant from taking possession of household animals
- Victim may be granted temporary custody of shared children
- Victim might be granted exclusive possession of a shared home
The TRO will last until the final restraining order hearing is held.
At the hearing, both the plaintiff and defendant will have the opportunity to present evidence and testimony about why a final restraining order should or should not be issued. Before a TRO will be issued, the judge must make the following findings:
- The relationship between the parties is a qualifying one under the law.
- The defendant committed one of the previously listed predicate acts.
- The plaintiff has an immediate need for a restraining order to prevent future domestic violence.
If the court finds that all three of these elements exist, a final restraining order will be issued. If the defendant fails to show up for the final restraining order hearing, the court can still issue the order.
Unlike TROs, FROs do not have a specific duration. The court will issue a FRO for as long as it's needed to protect the victim against future acts of violence. A FRO might also include the following restrictions:
- Restrain the defendant from engaging in future violence against the victim, the victim's family, and other relevant parties.
- Restrain the defendant from contacting or harassing the plaintiff, including through third parties.
- Grant the plaintiff temporary custody of any shared children.
- Order the defendant to pay financial support to the victim, including mortgage or rent payments and child support
- Order the defendant to undergo counseling
- Prohibit the defendant from owning or possessing firearms
- Grant the plaintiff possession of personal property (vehicle or pets)
When a final restraining order is issued, the defendant will be fined between $50 and $500 and will be photographed and fingerprinted. As long as the FRO remains in effect, the defendant will be prohibited from owning firearms.
The final restraining order will continue until it is dissolved by the court. Either the defendant or plaintiff can file a request to dissolve the FRO. If the plaintiff files a request to dissolve it, the plaintiff will be questioned by the court to allow the judge to determine if they will remain safe without the order.
Get Help from a Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey
If you are a domestic violence victim who needs help with obtaining a temporary restraining order or presenting evidence at a final restraining order hearing, it's important to talk to an experienced divorce lawyer in New Jersey. Similarly, if you have been served with a TRO, it's vital to have legal representation at the final restraining order hearing. Contact the law firm of the Ziegler Law Group, LLC to learn about your rights and legal options at (973) 878-4373.
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