The restraining order procedure in NJ can seem overwhelming, especially when you're already dealing with a stressful domestic issue. It's always a good idea to hire a knowledgeable family law attorney to help you through this process; however, here's an overview of how restraining order procedures in NJ work.
What Is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order (RO) is designed to stop a certain individual (the defendant) from harming the victim (the plaintiff).
- ROs are civil orders. They can be issued even if there are no criminal charges. However, violating a RO can be a criminal offense.
- Restraining orders can stop the defendant from doing a variety of things, like contacting the plaintiff or seeing their children.
Who Can File a Restraining Order?
Before you can get a RO, you need to be over 18 and a domestic violence victim. Domestic violence is threatening or violent behavior committed by someone you have a “domestic” relationship with, such as:
- intimate partners
- persons you have a child with
ROs can protect you against offenses including harassment, stalking, assault, false imprisonment, and sexual violence.
- Submitting a Restraining Order Application The first step is filing for a temporary restraining order. You can do this by:
- attending the Family Division of your local county's Superior Courthouse; or
- contacting your local courthouse (if it's an emergency requiring an out-of-hours TRO).
- The application should contain the following details:
- relationship with the alleged abuse
- description of the abuse (include evidence like photographs if possible)
- fears about what will happen if no order is issued
- Be as specific as possible – the more evidence provided, the easier it is for the judge to conclude there's a credible threat to your safety. The courthouse can help with completing the paperwork, or you can contact a family law attorney.
- Obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order After the plaintiff completes the application, the judge on duty reviews the paperwork and determines if the TRO should be granted. They will grant the TRO if it's likely that the defendant poses a threat to the plaintiff's safety.
- A TRO will specify what the defendant can't do, and it's effective immediately.
- TROs usually last for around ten days (the time it takes for a court hearing to be scheduled).
- Courts may grant TROs on little evidence as they will prioritize the victim's safety – if you're facing a restraining order, seek legal advice immediately.
- Serving the Restraining Order Once the court grants the TRO, police officers will attempt to serve it on the defendant. This usually means serving the TRO at the defendant's home address or another location.
- Depending on the terms of the TRO, police might arrest the defendant.
- Defendants may not get a chance to return home and collect their belongings – they're expected to comply with the RO immediately.
- If you're served with a TRO, you'll usually be notified of the final hearing date at the same time.
- The Final Restraining Order Hearing The final hearing is a chance for both parties to make their case. The plaintiff sets out why the FRO is necessary to protect them from further harm, and the defendant can explain why the order should be refused. The judge will issue a FRO if they find that:
- The parties have a domestic relationship;
- The defendant committed an act of domestic violence; and
- There's an urgent need to protect the plaintiff from further abuse or harm.
- Once granted, a FRO stays in place until it's changed or dismissed by the court. This could mean that you're prohibited from contacting the plaintiff or even possessing a firearm in the long term. Violating a FRO can result in serious criminal charges, so you must ensure you understand the order's terms and what it stipulates you can't do. Your attorney can help you understand how to comply with the terms.
- Having the Restraining Order Dismissed Plaintiffs can stop pursuing a restraining order if they decide it's no longer needed. This is not a decision to make lightly – speak to an attorney if you're unsure whether to request a dismissal.
- The plaintiff attends the final hearing and explains they either don't want a TRO anymore or they don't want to pursue a FRO.
- Next, the judge requires the plaintiff to speak to a domestic violence counselor to confirm there's no coercion or pressure to drop the allegations.
- The plaintiff signs paperwork confirming their decision, and the judge can then dismiss the restraining order.
- If you have a FRO already and want to drop it or change it, an attorney can help you schedule a court hearing date.
- Challenging a Final Restraining Order A RO can significantly impact your life. You have the right to appeal an FRO if the court awards one against you.
- You must first complete various documents, including a Notice of Motion for Dismissal of a Final Restraining Order by the Defendant.
- Then, you must make three copies of each document and file one copy with the court.
- At the hearing, the judge weighs up various factors and considers the evidence to determine if the FRO should be dropped.
- Filing for a FRO dismissal can be complex. An experienced defense attorney can ensure you complete all the required steps and put forward the best possible case.
How an Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Help
Whether you're filing for a RO, or you need representation at a hearing, Joseph Lento wants to help. As an experienced attorney, he has guided many individuals through the restraining order process, and he can answer any questions you might have about how the procedure works.
At the Lento Law Firm, we're committed to protecting your legal rights. To schedule a consultation, contact Joseph Lento via the online form or call now on 888.535.3686.