In New Jersey, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act allows victims of domestic violence to seek an order from the court to protect them from an abuser. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. Virtually every state in the country now has a similar statute allowing people to seek restraining orders or protective orders, but the procedure varies from state to state.
In the past, many states wouldn't enforce an out-of-state restraining order, putting victims of domestic violence at risk when they moved to a new state to escape an abuser. Recognizing this serious flaw, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1991. As part of the law, all states must give full faith and credit to out-of-state orders to protect victims of domestic violence.
Federal Law and Out-of-State Restraining Orders
Under federal law, states must enforce out-of-state orders if:
- The out-of-state court had jurisdiction over the matter and the parties when it issued the order
- The defendant to the order had reasonable notice of the hearing in the matter and the opportunity to be heard to protect the defendant's due process rights
- If the out-of-state court issued an ex parte order, the defendant had reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard after the court issued the order
It's important to note that you do not have to register an out-of-state restraining order with the state of New Jersey to make it enforceable in our state. Under federal law, New Jersey must enforce a facially valid restraining order even if the holder of the order wouldn't be eligible for a restraining order under New Jersey law. For example, if another state issues a restraining order between two cousins, the state of New Jersey must enforce it if the order is facially valid, even though cousins are not typically considered close family members eligible for restraining orders under New Jersey law. So, you can enforce the out-of-state order even if:
- You wouldn't be eligible for a restraining order or an order of protection in New Jersey
- Your out-of-state order grants you more relief than you would have received under New Jersey law
However, New Jersey's domestic violence statute is broader than most states, so you typically shouldn't have problems enforcing an out-of-state order.
How Do Police Know to Enforce an Out-of-State Order?
The police in New Jersey will enforce any out-of-state restraining order if it is facially valid. To determine if the order is still valid, the police must examine it closely. Only New Jersey and Washington have restraining orders that don't expire. Restraining or protective orders in other states will eventually expire.
In an emergency, where a defendant to an out-of-state protective order issues threats, behaves violently, or violates a restraining order, the police will focus on ensuring the victim's safety.
The police will examine an out-of-state restraining order to see if the order appears to be valid. They'll be looking for:
- Whether the order expired
- Whether the order has the correct names of the parties
- Whether the victim can tell them that the defendant received notice of the restraining order hearing
Defects on the order, such as boxes left unchecked or no notice of service, don't make the out-of-state order invalid. However, the situation can become more difficult if the victim doesn't have a copy of the restraining order on them. In comparison, New Jersey has a central domestic violence registry that contains information on all the restraining orders issued in the state; not every state has this available.
As you can see, the New Jersey police will have to analyze your out-of-state order to determine if it is valid. While you don't have to register an out-of-state restraining order in New Jersey to have the New Jersey police enforce it, you have three options:
- Do nothing and have the New Jersey police enforce your out-of-state order
- Register your out-of-state restraining order in New Jersey
- Obtain an additional restraining order in New Jersey
Registering an Out-of-State Restraining Order
You may choose to register an out-of-state restraining order in New Jersey to ensure that there are no problems with enforcement if you don't have the order on you at all times. To do so, you'll ask the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court in your county to recognize the out-of-state restraining order. As part of this process, you'll need to send notice of your application and the hearing to the defendant in your original state. In many cases, the defendant won't appear, and the judge will simply enter the order.
However, if the defendant does decide to appear, you will want an experienced New Jersey restraining order attorney by your side. The defendant may use this as an opportunity to relitigate your original restraining order. The defendant may argue that the out-of-state restraining order is invalid because the original court didn't have jurisdiction over the matter or didn't have adequate notice or the opportunity to be heard. If this happens, you need a skilled attorney to protect your rights.
Enforcing New Jersey Restraining Orders in Other States
Just like out-of-state orders in New Jersey, New Jersey restraining orders are enforceable in other states. You don't have to register the order in another state to enforce it there. You can enforce a New Jersey restraining order in another state as long as:
- The New Jersey court had jurisdiction over both parties at the time it issued the restraining order
- The court gave the defendant reasonable notice of the hearing
- The court gave the defendant an opportunity to be heard at the final restraining order hearing
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Restraining Order Lawyer
If you're trying to ensure that your out-of-state restraining order or protective order is enforceable in New Jersey, you need an experienced attorney immediately. A New Jersey attorney well versed in handling restraining order matters can ensure that your order will still protect you here and advise you on your best course of action concerning registering an out-of-state order. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the experienced legal team at the Lento Law Firm have been assisting New Jersey families with restraining order issues for years. They can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm online or call us at (888) 535-3686 today.