For domestic violence victims, a restraining order may provide some legal protection against the party responsible for harming them. There are various types of relief available, depending on what the courts deem necessary to keep the victim safe from further harm.
Although you should always contact an attorney if you're dealing with domestic violence, here's an overview of how restraining orders work and what types of relief the court may grant a domestic abuse victim.
What Is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order, or protective order, is a court-issued document that protects someone from another individual. For example, in domestic abuse cases, a restraining order may force the defendant to leave the household or prevent them from contacting the victim.
In the state of New Jersey, the courts can issue either temporary or final restraining orders.
- Temporary restraining order (TRO): A short-term relief that lasts until the court schedules a formal hearing date.
- Final restraining order (FRO): A permanent order granted after the formal hearing, which stays in place unless it's successfully appealed or modified.
Restraining orders do not appear on a criminal record. However, the defendant may face criminal consequences for violating an order.
It's crucial that a defendant understands the terms of any order granted against them, and what behavior may constitute a violation. Even the smallest infringement can be classed as a violation––contact an experienced attorney immediately if you're facing a restraining order.
Types of Relief Available
When someone applies for a restraining order, they're usually asking the court to grant them relief from dangerous, intimidating, or violent behavior. However, they can also ask the court to make orders which force the defendant to undertake certain actions.
Broadly, we can break the types of relief available into three categories.
1. Prohibited Actions
The defendant may be prohibited from acting in a certain way. Common orders include:
- Banning the defendant from contacting the plaintiff or other protected persons by any means, including text, email, or phone
- Stopping the defendant from visiting the plaintiff at home, work, or other location
- Forcing the defendant to give up child custody
- Prohibiting the defendant from harassing the plaintiff in any way
- Preventing the defendant from returning to the scene of the violence, such as the family home
- Banning the defendant from carrying a firearm or firearms license
2. Behavioral Monitoring
The restraining order may force the defendant to undertake behavioral interventions such as:
- Mental health evaluation
- Substance abuse treatment
They may also be forced to submit to behavioral monitoring to ensure they're complying with the order.
3. Civil Orders
Finally, the restraining order can impose financial reliefs such as orders to pay:
- Mortgage payments
- Child support
- Medical insurance
- Spousal support
The types of relief a judge grants can depend on whether it's a TRO or FRO.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
TROs are granted if there's a real and imminent threat of harm. The judge may grant relief to protect the plaintiff's immediate safety prior to the hearing, e.g., the order might force the defendant to suspend contact or relinquish firearms.
2. Final Restraining Orders
As FROs are permanent, they can include any relief to protect the defendant. The relief available can also include long-term orders such as an order to grant the plaintiff sole possession of the family home. Or the order might require the defendant to pay damages linked to the abuse, like medical bills.
Enforcement of Restraining Orders in NJ
Once a judge grants relief in the form of a TRO or FRO, the plaintiff can enforce the order in certain ways.
- If the defendant engages in prohibited behavior, e.g., calling the plaintiff or visiting them at work, the plaintiff can contact the police, who will arrest the defendant.
- Should the defendant fail to follow an order, e.g., failing to pay child support, the plaintiff can seek a civil court order which compels them to do so.
Seek legal counsel immediately if someone violates a restraining order or fails to comply with their responsibilities.
How to Seek a Restraining Order in NJ
Filing for a restraining order can be complex, so you should always get an attorney's advice before proceeding. However, the basic steps involved are as follows:
- First, you must visit the county courthouse and collect the necessary forms. Your attorney can advise you which forms you'll need, or you can ask the county clerk.
- You should complete the forms carefully, providing as much detail as possible. Your attorney can explain what types of relief the judge might grant in your case.
- If a judge agrees you're in danger, they'll grant a temporary restraining order which persists until the hearing date. To present your case effectively, ensure you have an attorney to represent you at the hearing.
- At the hearing, the judge hears both parties and will grant a final restraining order if deemed necessary.
An experienced attorney can explain the process in more detail to ensure you know what to expect. They'll also ensure you understand the terms of the order and what to do if the defendant violates any relief granted by the judge.
Violation of Restraining Orders
If a person violates a restraining order, they face criminal contempt charges. A criminal contempt charge carries serious long-term consequences; however, the penalties imposed vary depending on the severity of the violation and whether it's the defendant's first conviction for such an offense.
For example, if it's the defendant's first time violating a restraining order, they could face up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. However, if the defendant repeatedly violates restraining orders, or if the violation involves committing another crime such as harassment, the penalties are more severe.
How the Lento Law Firm Can Help With Your Restraining Order
Don't let the stress of applying for a restraining order overwhelm you––instead, let attorney Joseph D. Lento help you through the process.
Call the Lento Law Firm now on 888-535-3686 or talk to us online.