If you're beginning the process of obtaining a restraining order for domestic violence, or if you're defending yourself against domestic violence allegations, you know that this can be a complicated process. Obtaining a restraining order or defending against one involves an application, several court hearings, and ensuring that all the evidence in the case is well documented. If you don't have legal training, navigating the New Jersey court system, legal hearings, and the rules of evidence can be a complex process. You need an attorney like Joseph D. Lento, who is well versed in criminal defense and family matters and experienced handling restraining order hearings.
Restraining Order Applications
When you apply for a domestic violence restraining order, your first step will be completing an application for a temporary restraining order (TRO). The application is titled “New Jersey Domestic Violence Civil Complaint and Temporary Restraining Order.” The application is four pages and asks for detailed information about the defendant. You'll need to provide a name, date of birth, address, phone number, work phone, physical description, and social security number. You'll also need to sign the application. The full application contains several parts:
- Defendant information
- The relief you're requesting
- A warrant to search for weapons
- A notice to appear
- A return of service
- You'll need to include a detailed description of how the defendant endangered your well-being, health, or life. You should include the date, time, location, and other specific details about the domestic violence incident. If you have a police report or information about the alleged crimes, you can attach this to your application.
- Include any history of domestic violence or other violent incidents from the defendant and attach any police reports you have.
- Include any criminal complaints, charges, or history related to this matter.
- Detail whether the police confiscated any weapons during a related domestic violence incident.
- Include details about whether the police arrested the defendant.
- List any children's ages, sex, names, and where they live.
- Detail the current or past relationship between you and the defendant.
As part of the application for the TRO, you will need to list the specific relief you would like from the court, including:
- Preventing the defendant from returning to the scene of the violence or shared home
- Preventing future acts of violence
- Preventing the defendant from going to specific locations such as your workplace, school, or home
- Prohibiting the defendant from harassing you or using someone else to harass you
- Preventing the defendant from threatening, following, or stalking you
- Ordering a psychiatric evaluation for the defendant
- Ordering the defendant to attend counseling
- Ordering the defendant to pay emergency financial support
- Having the court monitor the conditions or restraints in the TRO
- Preventing the defendant from buying or possessing any firearms or weapons and ordering the defendant to surrender any weapons
- Ordering the defendant to surrender any licenses for firearms
- Ordering temporary child custody
- Ordering the police to accompany one of the parties to the home to remove their personal belongings
- Preventing the defendant from having parenting time or ordering specific parenting time
- Ordering the defendant to pay spousal support
- Ordering the defendant to pay child support
- Ordering the defendant to provide insurance coverage
- Ordering the defendant to make mortgage or rent payments
- Ordering temporary possession of a car or other personal property
- Any other relief
The TRO will also notify the defendant that a violation of the order may result in criminal contempt or other civil charges.
Warrant to Search for Weapons
The TRO will contain a warrant section for the police to search for and seize firearms or weapons from the defendant.
Notice to Appear at Final Restraining Order Hearing
The TRO will contain a notice for the parties to appear at a final restraining order hearing and a date for the FRO hearing. The notice to appear will inform both parties to bring relevant financial records, health insurance information, mortgage or rent information, other financial obligation information, and pay stubs.
Return of Service
The final section of the TRO will contain a return of service. This section indicates how law enforcement served the defendant and the defendant's signature. The defendant's signature acknowledges receiving the complaint.
Temporary Restraining Orders
During the hearing for the TRO, the judge will:
- Review the information for the parties, ensuring emergency contact numbers and email addresses for subsequent hearings
- Confirm that the plaintiff knows their legal rights and options, including the Domestic Violence Response Team or local domestic violence provider services
- Explain the domestic violence legal procedures to the plaintiff
- Establish a record with findings of fact and amend the complaint to conform to any testimony if appropriate
- Ensure that all appropriate crimes are included in the TRO
- Address emergency support for the applicant and children as needed. The TRO should clearly list the payment method, avoiding contact between the parties. The order should also give a date by which the defendant must pay.
- Inquire about the relief requested by the applicant and determine whether it's appropriate
During the hearing, the judge will also take testimony, covering:
- Any alleged domestic violence
- Any history of domestic violence between the parties, even if not reported to the police
- Why the applicant's life, health, or well-being is in danger
- Whether the defendant has access to firearms or other weapons or has a purchase permit or firearms identification card
If the judge issues a search and seizure order for firearms or weapons as part of the TRO, they will list in detail the reasons and scope of the search and seizure. The judge will also be sure to include the testimony and other information in the TRO as needed.
In some cases, both parties may apply for mutual restraining orders against one another. Although the court can consider cross-complaints, the judge will handle each TRO application separately. However, if the judge issues two TROs, the court will consider the TROs together to ensure that they don't conflict, particularly concerning child custody and visitation or financial support.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Attorney
If you're pursuing a restraining order in New Jersey or defending yourself from domestic violence allegations in a restraining order action, this isn't a matter you should handle on your own. You need experienced legal guidance through this process. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled legal team at the Lento Law Firm are experienced in criminal defense and family matters in New Jersey, including pursuing and defending restraining orders. They understand both sides of the process, ensuring they're well placed to protect your rights. Contact the Lento Law Firm online or give them a call at (888) 535-3686.