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How to File Forms & Understand The Restraining Order Process in a Domestic Violence Case

- The New Jersey Domestic Violence Civil Complaint and Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) Explained -

This 'How-To' information from Weinberger Law Group will help prepare you for when you go to either the court (Municipal or Superior) or the Police station to obtain a New Jersey Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).

While it should be understood that you will not be physically writing out the form, you will be required to provide all the information as to the Domestic Violence incident that took place. It has been our experience that these forms are often filled out incorrectly and it is for this reason that we prepare this How-To guide to help you successfully obtain a Temporary Restraining Order from the New Jersey courts. Once you have obtained a Temporary Restraining Order, you should schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys so that they can represent you at the Final Restraining Order (FRO) Hearing.

This How-To guide outlines the helpful information below but also offers the information in PDF versions so that you can easily print out what you might need to proceed. The PDF printable files are found here:

Click to Print Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order Form

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Click to Print the Domestic Violence Legal Process Explained Infographic

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How To Fill Out The New Jersey Domestic Violence Civil Complaint and Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): PAGE 1 OF SAMPLE TRO FORM:

Section A of the TRO sample:

First Row - TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) should be checked off by court or police personnel. An Amended TRO is checked off when there have been changes to an existing TRO.

Second Row - The court or police personnel will check off the forum issuing the TRO, whether it is the county Superior Court or the township/borough Municipal Court.

PLEASE Note: This matter can be filed where you, the victim, resides, where defendant resides, where you are living or where incident took place.

Defendant Information - Give as much information as possible, since the police will have to personally serve the defendant with the TRO.

TIP: If you have a photograph of defendant, it should be provided to the personnel filling out the documents.

Section B of the TRO sample:

Your Story - In this section, "On" refers to the date the current incident took place, "At" refers to the time that the incident took place, and "By" refers to what defendant did to you on the date and time you specified. .

  • Ex: "On 9/20/11, at 8:00 p.m., defendant struck plaintiff by hitting her in the face with his fist".
  • Please understand that when you give your information to the personnel completing the form, they will substitute your name with the term "Plaintiff" and the person who you are seeking to obtain a TRO against with the term "Defendant".
  • You should provide as much detail as possible about the incident and note specific injuries and pain. The court will use this information to determine if an act of domestic violence has taken place, therefore, be as detailed as possible. For example, if there is a stinging sensation from a slap across your face, you should note it on the form.
  • Criminal Offense Boxes - Check off all that apply.
  • It is necessary to categorize what action the defendant took against you and to supply the defendant with due process of the offenses he/she is being accused of committing. Most offenses are self-explanatory.
  • In our experience, the most confusing offenses for a victim to determine if they have occurred are usually assault, harassment and stalking. They are determined on a case by case basis. What might be considered harassment in one situation is not necessarily harassment in another. Therefore, the best suggestion we can offer is to make sure you are as specific as possible about the facts because that is the only way to determine if what transpired is in fact one or more of the criminal offenses listed below.

You should be aware that you are limited to the content contained on this form when presenting your matter to the judge. Therefore, please be sure to accurately identify on the Complaint and TRO, everything you want to be discussed and all the offenses you want addressed.

  1. Homicide - See N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1, et seq. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/11-1.html)
  2. Assault - See N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/12-1.html)
  3. Terroristic Threats - See N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/12-3.html)
  4. Kidnapping - See N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/13-1.html)
  5. Criminal restraint - See N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/13-2.html)
  6. False Imprisonment - See N.J.S.A. 2C:13-3. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/13-3.html)
  7. Sexual Assault - See N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/14-2.html)
  8. Criminal Sexual Conduct - See N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/14-3.html)
  9. Lewdness - See N.J.S.A. 2C:14-4. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/14-4.html)
  10. Criminal mischief - See N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/17-3.html)
  11. Burglary - See N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/18-2.html)
  12. Criminal Trespass - See N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/18-3.html)
  13. Harassment - See N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4. (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/33-4.html)
  14. Stalking - See N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10 (http://law.onecle.com/new-jersey/2c-the-new-jersey-code-of-criminal-justice/12-10.html)

Note: Be careful to properly understand the specifics and different considerations for each of the possible offense category choices above. Some have more complex areas within them as they relate to NJ Domestic Violence law.

Section 1 of the TRO Sample:

Prior History - This part is VERY IMPORTANT. You must detail other incidents of domestic violence, even if it was not reported. Be sure to check the box marked "YES" if there have been prior incidents. If this box is not checked and there has been a prior history, reported or unreported, you will not be permitted to testify at the Final Restraining Order hearing about the prior history.

Section 2 of the TRO Sample:

Criminal History of Defendant - If victim is aware of any criminal history of defendant it should be reported to the personnel filling out the TRO. The police will, in the normal course of their duties, run a check on the defendant to determine if there has been any prior criminal history as well.

Section 3 of the TRO Sample:

Any prior or pending court proceedings involving the parties - If you are involved in any other legal proceedings with the defendant, the docket number and county of those proceedings should be listed here, including any prior TROs, even if they were dismissed.

Section 4 of the TRO Sample:

Following the act of domestic violence the responding police officer may ask you if you want to file a municipal charge against the defendant. If you do file a municipal charge(s) against the defendant, then the requisite information regarding the charge must be provided to the police at that time.

There is no right answer as to whether or not to file municipal charges against the defendant. Even if you do not want to press charges against the defendant, if the act is severe enough (i.e. assault with any physical signs of abuse such as bruising or bleeding) then the police will file a complaint and the county prosecutor will take over whether you wanted to press charges or not. If you choose to press charges then you must be prepared to attend a separate hearing in municipal court and testify against the defendant as to those issues. You can choose to hire a separate criminal lawyer for representation in the municipal court matter, but in order to protect your rights at the Final Restraining Order hearing at Superior Court you should retain an attorney who exclusively practices family law because they have a distinct understanding of the Domestic Violence Act and all of its nuances.

Section 5 of the TRO Sample:

If police responded to the domestic violence incident then they will ask defendant if there are any weapons in his/her possession or in his/her home and seize same. If you are aware that the defendant owns any weapons then it should be reported to the police. The term "weapon" refers to anything readily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury.

Section 6 of the TRO Sample:

Relationship of Parties - The appropriate relationship between you and the defendant must be checked off, such as: married, divorced, present household member, unmarried, co-parents, expectant parents or dating relationship.

Section 7 of the TRO Sample:

If there are any children in common between you and the defendant, children's names, gender, date of birth and with whom the child resides must be listed. If in Section 6 of the TRO "co-parents" is checked off as the relationship between victim and defendant, then all unemancipated children (are to be listed, no matter their age or where they live).

Section 8 of the TRO Sample:

Indicate if you and the defendant have ever resided together and if so, what was the relationship (i.e. husband/wife, civil union partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, domestic partnership, mother/child, father/child, etc.). Even if you have not resided together the relationship still needs to be described.

Certification:

You must read the TRO for accuracy and once any corrections are made, then sign and date this section of the form, which states that all of your statements are true and that you are subject to punishment if your statements are false.

PAGE 2 OF SAMPLE TRO FORM:
cont: How To Fill Out the New Jersey Domestic Violence Civil Complaint and Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

Part I - Relief-This is relief sought by you as the Plaintiff/Victim.

For statements #1 through #13 - There are three columns on the left side of the Order

The TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) column shows what is REQUESTED by you in the TRO.

The FRO (Final Restraining Order) column shows what is REQUESTED at the Final Restraining Order hearing.

The GRANTED column shows what is GRANTED in the TRO ONLY. The GRANTED column must be checked for the TRO to be enforceable. Please understand that a judge will determine what to grant after carefully reviewing the complaint and possibly after having spoken to you.

All appropriate boxes should be checked by the appropriate personnel handling the Order. IF THE DEFENDANT VIOLATES ANY OF THE CONDITIONS IN #1 THROUGH #13 BETWEEN THE TIME THE TRO IS ENTERED AND THE FRO HEARING, THEN DEFENDANT CAN BE ARRESTED. Please understand that if the TRO is violated by the defendant, you should contact the local police department immediately, provide a copy of the TRO and explain the violation that occurred. The police will then take the necessary steps to apprehend the defendant, if necessary.

When reviewing sections #1 through #13, pay attention to the following:

#3 Places - Check off residence box and place of employment if you are employed. Your actual address should only be filled in if the defendant already knows the location of your home, if not, then it should say "Confidential".

#4,5,6 Others - Fill in the names and relationships of other people known to the defendant in which you believe the defendant would want to have contact with or if you are afraid defendant may try and harm prior to the FRO hearing.

#7 Emergent monetary relief - If you require financial assistance from defendant, then this must be checked off and specific details provided to the personnel handling the Order. You should come to the FRO hearing prepared with an itemized list of expenses incurred on a monthly basis and be prepared to submit same to the court. These include but are not limited to, bills/receipts for groceries, rent or mortgage payments, clothing, utilities, food, child care expenses and health related expenses. Additionally, you must bring with you the last three paystubs, W-2 and/or 1099 forms and the prior year's tax return to permit the court to make a preliminary finding as to your income and will help determine if temporary support from the defendant is necessary.

#8, 9 Evaluations and Treatment - This must be very specific as to who requires the treatment, how often the treatment should take place and who is paying for the treatment. Typical examples are asking for anger management classes or substance abuse treatment for the defendant.

#10 Possession of Weapons - This section precludes defendant from POSSESSING weapons only. (Note that ammunition is not a weapon pursuant to the NJ statute.) This includes firearms and weapons, purchasing card and identification card. Any other weapons that defendant has in his/her possession that were removed should be listed here as well.

RELIEF GRANTED TO PLAINTIFF:

#11 Exclusive Possession - If this section is checked, then the address must be filled in, but only if defendant is aware of the address. If defendant is not aware then it should state "plaintiff's residence" so as to maintain confidentiality. Exclusive possession means that you have the right to remain in the home to the exclusion of the defendant until the date of the Final Restraining Order hearing.

#12 Temporary Custody - List the children in common to you and the defendant. It is also important to note if you as the victim have any concerns about the defendant having any parenting time with the children while the TRO is in place. If so, you should make those concerns known, in detail.

#13 Other Relief - This is where the court can add relief on a case by case, fact sensitive basis. For example, if defendant has keys to your residence, then it should be clarified that these must be removed from him/her. If defendant is in possession of a child's birth certificate or passport, then you should ask for it to be taken from Defendant pending the outcome of the FRO. You should ask for the defendant to turn over anything that could be used by him/her to gain access to you or could be used by Defendant to take control of your children especially if he/she has parenting time with the children.

If an FRO is issued there are a variety of ways that parenting time can be addressed. Parenting time is dealt with based upon your specific circumstances but could include any of the following: parenting time could be suspended all together, could be supervised; could occur at a counselor's office; etc.

Law Enforcement Officer Section - Specify the police department, if known, that is to accompany Defendant to a specific place to retrieve clothing and toiletries or other specific items, once, for a limited time (such as 30 minutes).

  • After the TRO is granted, the police will allow Defendant to come to the home to gather some possessions. They will contact you and advise you that they are bringing Defendant by to get some personal items and clothing. Please understand that Defendant has the right to do this even if you are not home. If Defendant has keys, the police will accompany him/her into the home.

PAGE 3 OF SAMPLE TRO FORM:
cont: How To Fill Out the New Jersey Domestic Violence Civil Complaint and Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

WARRANT - This section requires the police to search and seize any permits, applications and id cards that may have been issued to Defendant for firearms at the locations listed on the TRO. It is important for you to give to the court any and all information you may have as to where defendant may keep any known firearms or permits, etc. If the police do seize any of the aforementioned items then a WRITTEN INVENTORY of the items seized must be sent to family court so it is available for the FRO hearing.

PART II RELIEF - Defendant

In this section it is important to indicate to the personnel handling the Order what relief you want at the FRO so that Defendant has his/her due process rights and can prepare for the FRO hearing.

#1 Parenting Time. When issuing the TRO the court will make a temporary determination if Defendant's parenting time with the children is to continue or not. This is done on a case by case basis and is fact sensitive. You should inform the court of any current parenting schedule, whether it is by agreement or court order, and any concerns you may have about defendant exercising parenting time between the date of the entry of the TRO and the FRO hearing.

#2 Risk Assessment. This must be specific. Again, if you have concerns about defendant's ability to parent or if they are abusing drugs and alcohol, you can ask for a risk assessment to be taken of the defendant.

#3 Compensation. If you need monetary support, then it must be specifically outlined, this includes rent, mortgage payments, health insurance, etc. You may also elect to pursue damages against the defendant if you are successful in obtaining an FRO. These damages usually are in the form of the defendant paying for any legal fees or other necessary costs that were incurred as a result of the defendant's acts of domestic violence.

PART II RELIEF - Plaintiff

As to personal property, you should be thinking about possessions like a car, house, a pet, etc.

Comments Section: This area can be used to continue the Story Section from Page 1 of the TRO or advise the ourt of special circumstances, such as a special needs child. You are not allowed to attach any of your notes to this document because it will become part of the TRO. However if extra space is needed for the story section, the personnel completing the form has additional specific pages that are utilized for just such an event. Your handwritten notes cannot become part of the Order itself, but if you made a statement to the police (if they were responding to a Domestic Violence call from you), then that statement will be included in the file which is submitted to the court and utilized by the court when making a decision regarding a Final Restraining Order.

PAGE 4 OF SAMPLE TRO FORM:
cont: How To Fill Out the New Jersey Domestic Violence Civil Complaint and Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

DISPOSTION OF TRO REQUEST.

  • If the TRO is DENIED, then this box will be checked off. If a municipal court has denied the TRO then the Order must be signed and sent to Family Court immediately. You can then go to the Superior Court the next day, if you wish, and renew your request for a TRO.
  • If the TRO is GRANTED, then this box will be checked off, the Order is signed and dated.

NOTICE TO APPEAR. This information will be filled in with the date, time and place of the FRO hearing. If an interpreter is needed for either party this should be brought to the Court's attention and the appropriate box checked off.

NOTICE TO DEFENDANT. This section informs the Defendant of the result of any violations of the TRO and the right to appeal the TRO.

RETURN OF SERVICE. Proof that both parties have received the executed TRO is entered here by the personnel handling the service of same.

DEFENDANT ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF RECEIPT OF TRO. Defendant will be served in person with the TRO by the police after it is signed by the court and will be required to sign this Certification section.

The TRO keeps the defendant away from your house, place of employment, or any other place you have indicated to the court if the court believes it is reasonable to do so. If you think Defendant is violating the TRO after it is entered, then the police should be contacted immediately and seek shelter at a safe haven.

Once you have obtained the TRO it will serve as your protection until the Final Restraining Order hearing. At the FRO hearing it is strongly advisable that you bring with you a family law attorney who is extremely familiar with the Domestic Violence Act and has experience with these types of hearings, so that you can be assured your rights are being protected.

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