If you feel you or your loved ones are in danger, you have options to protect yourself under the Domestic Violence Act in New Jersey.
Every minute, around 20 people are physically abused by their partner in the United States. If you are a victim or fear that you will become a victim of domestic violence, rest assured there is help for you. It is imperative to take action NOW before the behavior escalates.
Here are the necessary steps to file for a restraining order in the State of New Jersey
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is when violence occurs between those in an intimate relationship. They do not need to reside with one another or may no longer live in the same home. It is additionally not limited to solely physical violence as emotional, sexual, financial, and psychological abuse may be consistent with harassment if the actor’s purpose is to harass You.
Several examples’ of crimes or offenses that fit the definition of domestic violence in New Jersey include:
- Homicide- J.S.A. 2C:11-1 et seq.
- Assault- N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1
- Terroristic Threats- N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3
- Kidnapping- N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1
- Criminal Restraint- N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2
- False Imprisonment- N.J.S.A. 2C:13-3
- Sexual Assault- N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2
- Criminal Sexual Assault- N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3
- Lewdness- N.J.S.A. 2C:14-4
- Criminal Mischief- N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3
- Burglary- N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2
- Criminal Trespass- N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3
- Harassment- N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4
- Stalking- N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10
- Criminal Coercion- N.J.S.A. 2C:13-5
- Contempt of Domestic Violence Order- N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9
What is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is an order that prevents a specific person or persons from contacting or being in physical proximity to another person. Typically, restraining orders are provided for an allotted timeframe. In New Jersey, an individual is granted a TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER or TRO for immediate protection from their abuser. A hearing must occur within ten days of the original issuance of the TRO, to establish a FINAL RESTRAINING ORDER or FRO or for a dismissal of the TRO.
The order was designed to prevent domestic violence from occurring or continuing to occur while protecting the victim. The court-ordered documents attach criminal penalties should the person who received the restraining order make any contact or come within a specific distance of the victim.
However, if the plaintiff and defendant choose to reunite, the restraining order DOES NOT automatically terminate. The defendant can still face criminal charges if they violate the terms of the court order.
Who Can File for a Restraining Order?
“Victim of domestic violence” means a person protected under this act and shall include any person who is 18 years of age or older or who is an emancipated minor and who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present household member or was at any time a household member. “Victim of domestic violence” also includes any person, regardless of age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has a child in common, or with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant. “Victim of domestic violence” also includes any person who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.
What Does a Temporary Restraining Order Do?
A TRO serves the defendant with the court order and provides a final hearing date. Typically, this occurs 10 days after a TRO is served, although adjournments are regularly granted to hire an attorney or prepare evidence for your case. If the defendant resides at the property, they are often required to vacate the premises regardless of if they are the owners.
- Prohibit a defendant from returning to the scene where the domestic violence took place (except in the presence of a police officer to gather personal belongings at a specified time and date)
- Prohibits a defendant from possessing any firearms and other certain weapons (If the defendant is a law enforcement officer or in the military, they may possess firearms while on duty)
- Police can be ordered to search and confiscate any weapon, including firearms permits, at any location the judge has reasonable cause to believe a weapon is located
- Possession of animals you own or that are cared for by you, the defendant, or child who lives in the household
- A judge may grant temporary custody of children
- A judge may give you exclusive possession of the home you share with the abuser regardless of who is the primary leaseholder or if the home is jointly owned (N.J.S.A § 2C:25-28(j), (k))
Final Restraining Order Granted
At the restraining order hearing, both the victim and alleged domestic violence abuser may offer testimony or evidence to the judge. The FRO is permanent and indefinite if one is granted to the plaintiff.
In order to issue a FRO, the judge must find the following three elements:
- The parties have a qualified domestic relationship under the Act;
- The defendant committed a predicate act of domestic violence; and
- There is an immediate need for restraints in order to prevent further acts of domestic violence.
The protection may include:
- Protection from future violence
- Financial support, including rent, mortgage payments, or child support
- Prohibiting contact and harassment between the plaintiff and the defendant
- Temporary custody of any minors
- Counseling or therapy
- Temporary possession of personal property
- Prohibiting the defendant’s right to bear arms or other weapons
How to Get a Restraining Order
If you need a restraining order, first, call the police. Detail the nature of the incident as having a police report is vital for establishing a restraining order—and quickly.
The next step is to request a TRO—or temporary restraining order. This can be done at the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court or at your nearby police station. New Jersey residents also have the option of calling the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE (7233). Fill out all of the forms. Be as specific as possible regarding the details you are presenting to warrant the TRO.
Include when, where, and how the events took place, and who is the alleged abuser. Provide the documents to the court clerk. A judge will review the case and may grant the TRO. The full court hearing will be scheduled 10 days after the TRO is issued. The permanent restraining order may then be provided to the plaintiff if the above criteria is met.
Our team of Former Prosecutors can further assist you with more restraining order information.