Have you taken out a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against your abuser? This is a big step towards safety, and now it’s time to plan your next step: turning your TRO into a Final Restraining Order (FRO).
After a TRO is issued, a final restraining order hearing is scheduled, typically within 10 days. At this hearing, a judge listens to evidence and decides whether a final restraining order (a restraining that lasts indefinitely) is appropriate.
Going into this final restraining order hearing prepared is key. In deciding the need for a FRO, judges look for three factors or “proofs” to be present. As you prepare for your FRO hearing, carefully consider how you can make a strong case for each of the following.
Proof 1: Did an act of domestic violence take place?
To determine if an act of domestic violence occurred, the judge will want to know whether the precipitating incident fits the criteria for one or more Crimes of Domestic Violence, as defined under the New Jersey Criminal Code. These Crimes include:
- Cyber Harassment
- Terroristic threats
- Criminal restraint
- False imprisonment
- Sexual Assault
- Criminal Sexual Contact
- Criminal Coercion
- Criminal Mischief
- Criminal Trespass
- Crimes involving risk of death or serious bodily injury to anyone protected
- under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act 1991
Evidence presented to the judge in the final restraining order hearing can be in the form of a police report and arrest records, witness testimony, including friends or hospital workers, personal testimony on the part of the victim, and other evidence such as photos of injuries/damage, emails, texts and phone messages, and other records.
Proof #2: Is there a history of domestic violence?
If the judge determines that a Crime of domestic violence took place, the judge will next want to examine whether this was an isolated incident or if a pattern of domestic violence exists in the relationship. If there is a history of domestic violence present in your relationship (including any prior threats, harassment, and physical violence), you can present evidence to the judge to document this, including prior police and hospital records, emails, text messages, photos, journal entries and testimony from those who witnessed the abuse.
Proof #3: Is a restraining order necessary to ensure the victim’s safety?
Finally, the judge will consider the necessity of a final restraining order to ensure victim safety in the future. The severity and extent of domestic violence experienced will be taken into account. But the judge will also look at what happened after the TRO was put in place. Did the parties named in the TRO still text or call each other, or meet in person? Even something as small and seemingly insignificant as you liking a Facebook post of the person named in the TRO could constitute contact in the judge’s eyes. Be aware that a victim returning a text, email or call (or initiating these) says to the court that a restraining order may not be needed.
Some abusers may attempt to bait their victims into contact by claiming there is an emergency. This is why working with an attorney is so important. If something like this happens, and you do have concern, such as a message telling you there is an emergency with a family member, your lawyer can verify the situation or be able to tell you how to proceed without putting your final restraining order in jeopardy.
If the judge finds evidence to support your request for a FRO after analyzing these three factors, the restraining order will be granted. At the hearing, the judge can also decide other forms of relief, including establishing safe conditions for parenting time, alimony, rent or mortgage payments, professional counseling requirements and/or prohibition against weapon possession.
Working with a family law attorney is helpful in preparing for your final restraining order hear to present a strong and compelling case on your behalf. Your attorney will take the burden off your shoulders and help you not feel alone.
Ready to speak confidentially with an attorney to understand your best options for your final restraining order? Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our domestic violence specialists. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the button below.
If you are experiencing a domestic violence emergency, please contact 911 or your local police.