Sadly, domestic violence can increase over the holidays. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship or situation, we want you to know that you can get out and you can get help, no matter what time of year it is. Not sure how to take action? Here’s some step-by-step advice on how to file for a restraining order in New Jersey.
Safety is a Priority
Your safety and the safety of your children should be your first consideration at all times. If you are having an emergency, call 911 and get out of the situation immediately. If you are working on leaving the relationship and are perhaps preparing a safety plan, part of that plan should be attempting to obtain a restraining order against your abuser.
Step One: Know Where to Go
You can obtain a temporary restraining order or TRO at your local family courthouse during regular court hours or 8:30am to 4:30pm. Go to the courthouse in your county or where the abuse most recently happened and let the staff in the family division that you need a temporary restraining order. If the courthouse is closed for the holidays, or is operating on a reduced schedule, go to your local police station where you will be assisted.
Step Two: Prepare Paperwork
You will next fill out a TRO application with basic information and details regarding the most recent incident of abuse (the predicate act) and any history of abuse. Be thorough and include details regarding all incidents past and present.
Step Three: Make It Official
A judge will decide, based on your allegations whether to issue a TRO, right away. If it is outside of regular court hours, your local police department can assist you in obtaining a TRO.
Step Four: Serve the Abuser
After the TRO is issued, your abuser will be served the approved TRO papers. They are then on notice and cannot contact you in any way, shape or form.
Step Five: Converting Your TRO to a FRO
Within ten days of your getting the TRO, you will have a trial, before a family court judge who will decide whether to dismiss your TRO or have the TRO become a final restraining order or FRO. FROs in New Jersey are permanent and it is very difficult for them to be dismissed.
Step Six: Proving Your Case
In order to have your TRO become permanent, you have to prove that there was an act of domestic violence that occurred and that you have an ongoing need for the FRO in order to protect you. If you do not prove that predicate act (the incident that led you to file the TRO) or that you have an ongoing need for protection, you will not get the FRO. The TRO will be dismissed and there will no longer be any protections in place. Strongly consider having a family law attorney represent you in the FRO hearing. Hearings can be complicated, stressful and emotional. You will have to testify in open court in front of your abuser and you will have to present evidence such as medical reports or phone records to prove your case. Your chances of getting the FRO increase a great deal if you have an attorney assisting you.
Again, this can not be stated strongly enough: If you are in immediate danger, get out of your situation as soon as possible. Think about joining a domestic violence support group or reaching out to the New Jersey Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE. If you need further legal assistance, please contact us today to schedule your free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled and compassionate family law attorneys.