You may be familiar with the term “restraining order” as a remedy of protection for victims of domestic violence. But what’s the difference between a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and a Final Restraining Order in New Jersey (FRO)? Let’s take a look.
The Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
While it may seem obvious, a TRO here in New Jersey, is just that: temporary. It is meant to remain in place to protect a victim for only a certain period of time. It is more like an emergency order that is issued so that a domestic abuse survivor can become protected immediately. [Read: How to file for a TRO.]
A temporary restraining order can be issued by the family court during normal business hours, or through the local police department if after hours. Judges are on duty overnight to listen to the allegations of the victim and decide in that minute whether or not to issue the TRO. Because the process is so fast and because the alleged abuser is not usually heard from at this state, TROs are only meant to last for a maximum of 10 days, according to the law.
Even though TROs offer only temporary protection, that does not mean that they do not offer the survivor complete protection. Once the alleged abuser is served with the TRO, they are officially and legally on notice to have absolutely no communication with the victim. This includes no phone calls, in-person communication, texting, emailing or even having a third party contact them on their behalf. If contact happens or is even attempted, they are subject to criminal arrest and prosecution as well as civil sanctions for violating the TRO.
The Final Restraining Order (TRO)
Within the 10 days after the TRO is issued and served upon the alleged abuser, a hearing in the family court is scheduled. At that hearing, the judge assigned to the case will hear testimony and look at evidence presented by both sides. The victim testifies about the incident that caused the current TRO (called the predicate act) first. If the judge determines that this act did happen, then the victim can testify about any past history of domestic violence. Both parties have the right to cross examine the other and both have the right to introduce evidence for the judge to consider such as phone records, photographs, medical reports and journals. It is highly recommended that both alleged victims and abusers seek the advice and services of an experienced family law attorney for trial.
Once the parties are done presenting their sides to the court, the judge makes a decision whether or not to issues an FRO. The judge decides if there was an act of domestic violence that occurred on or near the date the TRO was issued as defined in the law and if there is a continued need for protection going forward. For example, the judge may believe that the abuser hit the survivor on that date, but because the abuser is moving to Alaska within a month, there may not be a need for continuing with a restraining order.
If the court feels an act occurred and there is a need for continued protection, then an FRO will be issued. The FRO is final and permanent and it is very difficult for the abuser to have the FRO dismissed. If the survivor wishes to dismiss the FRO at a later date, they will be questioned by the court about why they wish to do so and if they are sure they will be safe.
If you are in an abusive situation, be sure that you take all steps to get yourself and your family to safety. See our list of domestic violence resources for helpful agencies in New Jersey. If it is an emergency, call 911 and leave the situation, if possible. Talk to a therapist or a family law attorney to get options. Above all, get safe.
If you would like more information about domestic violence or any other area of family law, please contact us to schedule your free and confidential consultation with one of our experienced and compassionate family law attorneys. We are here to protect your rights to a safe and secure future. Call today: 888-888-o919.