In New Jersey, restraining orders can be a valuable tool to protect victims of domestic violence from their abusers. Victims can seek restraining orders to prevent an abuser from contacting them, award temporary custody, and obtain temporary financial support. But if you're a defendant unjustly accused of abuse, the court system can seem stacked against you. That's why it's important to have a lawyer experienced in restraining orders by your side in court.
What is a Restraining Order?
Under New Jersey's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, victims of domestic violence and certain other crimes can apply for restraining
orders to prevent their abusers from contacting them. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. In New Jersey, there are both temporary (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO). Both types of restraining orders can include court-ordered provisions for protection, temporary child custody, and financial support for a significant other or child. In extreme cases, a FRO could permanently affect your visitation and custody rights, making the importance of legal representation even more urgent.
Where Do FRO and Custody Hearings Happen in Gloucester County?
In Gloucester County, custody and restraining order hearings happen in Family Court in Woodbury, New Jersey. The domestic violence division also assists with restraining orders. The courthouse is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
1 North Broad Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096
856-878-5050 ext. 15590
How Do Restraining Orders Work in Gloucester County?
When an alleged victim first applies for a restraining order in Gloucester County, the judge first examines the application in an ex parte hearing. Only the plaintiff will be present for this hearing, and the court won't notify you that it's taking place. If the judge enters a temporary restraining order, it will only remain in place until the final hearing in about ten days. You will receive notice of the hearing, as well as a copy of the TRO, from the police.
Both parties have the right to attend the final hearing to present their story. You will have the chance to present evidence and witness testimony. However, the FRO hearing is a formal court hearing, which can be challenging to navigate without an attorney. That's why you need a skilled restraining order lawyer by your side.
Can I Still See My Kids with a Restraining Order in Place?
You may be able to still see your kids with a restraining order in place, depending on the provisions the judge includes in the TRO and FRO. In some cases, the TRO may prevent you from seeing your children until the final hearing. During the FRO hearing, the judge may include provisions regarding custody and visitation depending on the circumstances of the case and whether the judge believes that an act of domestic violence occurred.
How Does a Judge Determine Custody in a Restraining Order Hearing?
During a FRO hearing, the judge may make a custody or visitation determination after evaluating:
- Whether you have a history of violence or domestic violence
- Whether you directed the act of domestic violence at the child, parent, or both
- Whether you are still a threat to the parent or child
- How many times the domestic violence occurred
- Whether you have pending criminal charges or a record
- Any injuries that happened due to domestic violence
- The testimony of any witnesses in the FRO, including police officers
Custody and visitation provisions in a FRO are usually temporary. Still, the judge in family court will also consider whether a FRO is in place when making permanent custody or visitation decisions. When making custody decisions, the family court will determine the child's best interests, prioritizing the child's safety. To decide this, the court will look at many things, including:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Any history of domestic violence
- The child's relationship with both parents
- Mental illness
- The stability of the home
- Whether each parent is fit
Additionally, the court will consider the court's findings from a FRO hearing, particularly any domestic violence findings. See N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4A (2016).
What Happens if I Violate a FRO?
Violating a no-contact provision of a restraining order is a serious matter in New Jersey. It is criminal contempt of a court order, a criminal offense, and can result in your arrest. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. A second violation can result in 30 days in jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30. Even something that seems minor, like a text message, can be a violation of your court order and result in your arrest. Violating a FRO, and getting arrested for it, could affect your custody and visitation rights in family court as well.
What Happens if I Violate a FRO Custody Order?
Violating the custody or visitation provisions of a FRO can also affect your custody matters. While a violation may not be a criminal matter, willfully violating a court order could affect any family court's permanent custody and visitation decisions. However, violating a custody order is a civil matter, and one of the parties may need to file an action in civil court to enforce it.
Can I Get Custody Back After the FRO Expires?
You may be able to get custody or visitation back after a FRO, depending on the circumstances. However, New Jersey FROs don't typically expire. They remain in place until one of the parties asks a court to modify or lift the order. Unless the other party agrees, the court will hold a hearing to determine if the FRO is still needed to prevent future domestic violence.
Hire an Experienced FRO Attorney
If you're facing a hearing for a restraining order, you'll need a skilled New Jersey restraining order lawyer by your side, particularly if you're concerned about whether the outcome will affect the custody of your children. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many Gloucester County families through the restraining order process and custody and visitation disputes. He can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.