Facing a restraining order can be stressful and full of unknowns. If someone applied for a restraining order against you, you're undoubtedly worried about what will happen and the legal process. If you have children, you're probably most concerned about how a restraining order will affect them and your relationship with them. Restraining orders are a valuable tool to protect victims of domestic violence and other crimes from their potential abusers. But if someone unjustly accuses you of domestic violence, it can feel like the entire justice system is working against you. As a result, it's essential to have an experienced New Jersey attorney by your side.
What is a Restraining Order?
In 1982, New Jersey's legislature created the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to allow victims of domestic violence to request restraining orders from the court to protect them from their abusers. See N.J. S.A. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. A court-ordered restraining order can prevent someone from contacting or coming near another person for a set period or permanently.
The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act creates two types of restraining orders – a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a final restraining order (FRO). A FRO is a permanent order that remains in force until one or both parties ask the court to lift or modify it. Both types of restraining orders can contain provisions to protect the plaintiff, provide temporary financial support, and award temporary custody to a parent.
Where Do FRO and Custody Hearings Happen in Warren County?
In Warren County, judges hear both custody and restraining order hearings in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Warren County Superior Court. The courthouse is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
413 2nd Street
Belvedere, NJ 07823
How Do Restraining Orders Work in Warren County?
When an applicant asks the court for a restraining order in Warren County, the judge will look at the application in an ex parte hearing. An ex parte hearing means that only the plaintiff is present, and you won't have the right to appear. If the judge decides that a temporary restraining order is necessary, it will only remain in place for about ten days until the final hearing.
When the final restraining order hearing takes place, you'll have the chance to appear in court and tell your story. Both parties can present evidence and witness testimony to the court. However, a formal court hearing can be challenging to navigate without legal training. So, your best chance of success in this hearing is with a lawyer experienced in restraining order litigation representing you in court.
Can I Still See My Kids with a Restraining Order in Place?
Depending on the terms of the restraining order, you may still be able to see your children. While a TRO may prevent you from seeing your children until the final hearing, the court won't restrict your custody or visitation rights in the final hearing without evaluating all the evidence.
How Does a Judge Determine Custody in a Restraining Order Hearing?
Before restricting your parental rights, the court will look at many factors and consider all of the evidence and testimony in the FRO hearing, including the testimony of police officers. The court will ask:
- Do you have a history of violence or domestic violence?
- Did you direct domestic violence at your child or their parent?
- Did the domestic violence happen multiple times?
- Are you still a threat to your child or their parent?
- Were there any injuries because of the domestic violence?
- Do you have any pending criminal charges or a record?
The custody and visitation provisions of a FRO are usually temporary. The court will typically leave final custody decisions to the family court. However, the family court will consider the FRO against you and any court findings concerning domestic violence during the hearing.
In making custody decisions, the family court will look at the “best interests of the child,” reviewing many factors about both parents and both homes. This evaluation will include:
- Whether there's any history of domestic violence
- Whether either parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse
- Whether either parent has a history of mental illness
- The child's relationship with each parent
- The stability of each home
- The fitness of each parent
What Happens if I Violate a FRO?
Violating a FRO in New Jersey is never a good idea. Breaching the no-contact provisions of a FRO is criminal contempt of a court order and a criminal offense. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. Violating the order can result in your arrest. Violating an order a second time can also result in your arrest and 30 days in jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.
What Happens if I Violate a FRO Custody Order?
If you violate the custody or visitation provisions of a FRO against you, it will likely affect future decisions of the family court concerning custody and visitation of your children. While you may not end up in jail for violating the order, it's not a good idea. If you want to modify the custody provisions of your FRO or the family court, you need to consult an experienced New Jersey family attorney.
Can I Get Custody Back After the FRO Expires?
You may be able to get custody back after a court enters a FRO against you. A family court judge could make a different decision regarding permanent custody, or you may be able to lift the FRO. However, final restraining orders don't typically expire in New Jersey. One of the parties must ask the court to modify or restrict the order. Before doing so, the court may hold another hearing to determine whether restraints are still necessary to protect the plaintiff or your children.
Hire an Experienced FRO Attorney
If you've got a restraining order pending against you in New Jersey, you need a New Jersey family law attorney skilled in restraining order litigation by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping Warren County families with restraining orders and custody issues for years, and he can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.