New Jersey courts are experiencing a severe backlog–an issue partly due to the surplus of judicial vacancies throughout the state. An estimated 15% of all New Jersey Superior Court judgeships have yet to be filled. These vacancies and the resulting bottleneck of cases can significantly impact individuals and families waiting for judicial resolution of their issues. Such impact is especially felt among people waiting for a Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing.
Importance of the FRO Hearing
In New Jersey, a person being abused by an adult with whom they have or recently had an intimate or domestic relationship may seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) against them at their local courthouse. If a judge finds that the initial evidence suggests the claimant's life, health, or well-being is in danger, they will grant the TRO.
Once issued, the TRO immediately prevents the alleged abuser (the defendant) from approaching, contacting, or going anywhere near the alleged victim. It may even prohibit the defendant from re-entering the family home, sharing custody of children, or possessing a firearm. While a TRO is not a criminal offense, the defendant may be arrested for criminal contempt if they violate the TRO's terms, even by accident. A criminal contempt conviction would appear on their criminal history.
Under normal circumstances, the TRO remains in effect only until the FRO hearing, which is generally held ten days after the TRO is issued. At the FRO hearing, a family court judge reviews the evidence of the alleged abuse and hears testimonies from the parties involved and witnesses. If the judge decides that abuse has occurred, they will grant the FRO. This order has very serious consequences for the defendant: it may permanently prohibit the defendant from contacting the plaintiff, having custody of the children, or living in the family home.
How Judicial Vacancies Affect People Waiting for a FRO hearing
The period between the issuance of the TRO and the FRO hearing is stressful and uncertain for both the claimant and the defendant. Both parties feel that the rest of their life hangs in suspension and want resolution as swiftly as possible. Any delay means that this period of uncertainty will continue indefinitely, heightening anxiety levels.
The defendant may feel particularly pressured by the delay as the TRO has likely upended their life and the hearing is their only chance to offer their side of the story and avoid a FRO. They do not know when and if they will be allowed to re-enter their home, speak to the claimant, or see their children. The claimant may feel anxious about whether the court will ultimately grant a FRO and what their future may hold if it is not. They may also worry about the delay's effect on the defendant and whether it could spark a violent reaction. Children of the parties are likely to also feel this tension and anxiety, which may affect their well-being, schoolwork, and mental state.
Contact an Experience New Jersey Family Law Attorney
Judicial vacancies are wreaking havoc with judicial dockets throughout the state. If your FRO hearing has been delayed, you should immediately speak to a skilled New Jersey family law attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many families satisfactorily resolve restraining order issues. He can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.
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