A restraining order is a tool essential to protecting people from domestic violence. However, sometimes individuals accused of abuse may believe the order has no merit and is being used as leverage to obtain custody of children. Here is what you need to know about how restraining orders can affect child custody cases in New Jersey.
What Is a Restraining Order in New Jersey?
A restraining order helps protect a person being abused by either an adult member of their household or a person with whom they had an intimate relationship. The order generally prohibits an alleged abuser from being in contact with or in physical proximity of the alleged victim of abuse. It can also impose other restrictions, such as banning the alleged abuser from possessing a firearm or having custody of their children.
New Jersey has two types of restraining orders. The first is the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). An alleged victim may request a TRO when they file a domestic violence complaint in their local county courthouse or police department. A judge will grant the TRO if they find the plaintiff's life, health, or well-being to be in danger. TRO remains in effect until the date of the Final Restraining Order hearing, which is usually about ten days later.
The second type of order, the Final Restraining Order (FRO), is issued after a family court judge has reviewed the evidence and heard testimonies from both parties. If the order is granted, it may permanently bar the defendant from contacting the plaintiff and may prohibit the defendant from having custody of the children.
A Final Restraining Order's Impact on Custody
During the FRO hearing, the court will examine a number of factors to determine whether the defendant should have custody of the child. Among other things, it will consider whether the defendant has abused or threatened the child or the co-parent, how often the abuse occurred, and whether any injuries have resulted. If the court finds that living with the defendant is not in the child's best interest, it will remove the defendant's custody rights and award sole custody to the plaintiff. The judge may even limit visitation rights to supervised visits in some cases.
Under New Jersey law, violating the TRO or FRO is a criminal offense that could end in jail time. In addition, a violation looks bad to the court and will further hurt your chances of obtaining child custody.
Consult a Skilled New Jersey Family Attorney
A FRO lasts indefinitely in New Jersey. If the FRO provision removes children from your custody, you could potentially lose custody of them forever. If you believe that a spouse or former spouse or partner is using a TRO or FRO as leverage to gain custody of your children, you should speak to an experienced New Jersey family law attorney immediately. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many families through custody and restraining order issues. He and his team can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an consultation online.