Verbal/Emotional Abuse – Grounds for a Restraining Order


If someone has suffered harm at the hands of another, then the victim might be able to obtain a restraining order to get court protection. There are several reasons why a court will grant a restraining order to protect an individual from another. Restraining orders are rather specific, so it is important that one is available under New Jersey law before a petition is filled out and filed with the court. If you are seeking a restraining order or are defending against a restraining order, then it is critical to have the assistance of an experienced attorney.

Restraining Orders Generally

A restraining order is a protective order that is authorized by the court that is meant to protect an individual from another. The protections of a restraining order can include things such as no-contact orders and orders prohibiting someone from going to certain places where the victim is known to go or be. If the parties share a home, then the person named in the restraining order can be forced to move out. The main purpose of a restraining order is to offer protection to an individual by using law enforcement to ensure all provisions are followed.

Who Can Seek a Restraining Order in New Jersey?

Under New Jersey law, victims of domestic violence can obtain a restraining order from their local county court. To be considered a “victim of domestic violence” under New Jersey law, an individual must be

  • 18 years old or older (or an emancipated minor) who has been assaulted by a spouse, ex-spouse, or any current or former roommates or housemates, or
  • Assaulted by someone who the victim has a child in common with or is expecting a child with, or
  • Assaulted by a dating partner

Restraining orders in New Jersey can also be obtained for the victims of sexual assault or stalking. Generally, restraining orders are not available for those seeking protective orders of the court when dealing with friends, acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

What are the Requirements for Obtaining a Restraining Order?

In a restraining order case, the person seeking protection from the court is known as the petitioner, while the person being accused of causing harm is known as the defendant. A petitioner must demonstrate that the parties involved are in a domestic relationship and that the petitioner has been assaulted by the defendant. Alternatively, a petitioner must demonstrate that sexual assault or stalking occurred by the defendant. It is the petitioner's responsibility to prove the case by a preponderance of the evidence before a restraining order will be authorized.

Is Verbal or Emotional Abuse Enough to Get a Restraining Order?

Domestic violence comes in many forms and does not need physical harm to be considered abuse. While verbal and emotional abuse are not specifically listed as reasons why a restraining order can be granted, there are several specific acts that can be alleged that can be the basis for a restraining order in New Jersey. Allegations of the following types of actions and behavior by an abuser that are defined in the New Jersey Statutes and can result in a restraining order:

  • Harassment – Defined at 2C:33-4, harassment can include unwanted communication or physical contact. Harassment is the most common type of predicate act that a New Jersey restraining order can be based on
  • Coercion – Defined in the New Jersey statutes at 2C:13-5, coercion involves the intent to restrict the freedom of another to engage in some type of conduct through the use of threats
  • Terroristic Threats – Defined at 2C:12-3, terroristic threats include any threat of violence that causes a public disruption or a threat to kill someone with the intent to cause the victim to feel an immediate threat of violence
  • Criminal Restraint – Defined at 2C:13-2, criminal restraint involves the holding of someone against their will. This predicate act does not require physically holding someone and can be done with words
  • False Imprisonment – Defined at 2C:13-3, false imprisonment involves a substantial interference with someone's freedom and is similar to the crime of criminal restraint
  • Criminal Mischief – Defined at 2C:17-3 criminal mischief involves the damage or destruction of another's property

While all of the above predicate acts can stand alone as criminal charges, the level of proof needed for a restraining order authorization is lower than if the acts were being criminally prosecuted. Criminal charges need proof beyond a reasonable doubt, while restraining orders only need a preponderance of the evidence. This lower legal standard helps petitioners.

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help

Whatever approach that is taken in court should be based on the individual facts and circumstances. An attorney can help you whether you are the petitioner or defendant in a restraining order case. Since verbal and emotional abuse are not specifically listed as reasons to get a restraining order, it will likely take some explanation to show the court why one should be authorized if you are a petitioner. If you are a defendant, then it is always recommended to have an attorney represent you to protect your rights. There is no one singular approach that works for all cases, so make sure that you have your case reviewed and assessed by an experienced attorney so you can determine the best way forward.

Contact the Lento Law Firm Today

If you have questions about how the requirements of a restraining order, then make sure you speak to an experienced attorney. A restraining order can be a useful tool for victims of violence but can also be based on false accusations. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm have the experience and knowledge to help you with your restraining order issue. To learn why the Lento Law Firm is the right choice, call us toll-free at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.

Contact a Family Law Attorney Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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