This October’s Domestic Violence Awareness month is one like no other. Typically, the awareness month is an important opportunity to share resources and engage in discussion about how to further aid survivors and end domestic abuse.
In 2020, however, there is an urgent need to get information directly to victims who may be uncertain of how to get help and get to safety in the time of Covid-19. With closures and changed access the norm until further notice, usual avenues of help and support may feel difficult to access.
Do you or a loved one need to get to safety as a result of a violent or abusive partner? Here is a breakdown of needed help and how to still get it during the pandemic.
Help Needed: Making a Safety Plan
A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that functions as a roadmap of vital information for when you are ready to leave, including important phone numbers, plans for your kids, lists of items of items to bring with you, and much more. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in stressful and uncertain moments. It’s important during Covid that your information about how to access resources is accurate.
How To Get It During Covid-19: Get a free safety plan PDF to print out at home, or have one of a trusted friend or family member print it out for you. Due to Covid, much of the legwork to gather information will take place online. Ask a friend or family member to help research as a way to expedite the process; use their phone or computer to help protect your privacy. As you research, make sure to verify information, such as how to access to a shelter, is applicable during Covid.
Keep your Safety Plan somewhere safe, such as hidden at the home of one of your safe people. Have kids? You will want to make sure they know what to do in case of an emergency. Present the information as part of basic safety training: call 911, or run to a nearby friend or neighbor’s house.
Help Needed: Getting to Safe House Shelter
Physically getting out and away from an abusive situation is an important first step to safety. During this time of social distancing, shelters are still available.
How To Access Shelters During Covid-19
To get connected with resources and shelters near you, call the 24-hour New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1-800-572-SAFE (1-800-572-7233). You will be connected with agencies in your area that operate shelters and will be given Covid-specific information about how to access the shelter and how the shelter is providing for social distancing and other measures to keep the environment safe.
The agency will also put you in touch with a DV counselor trained to help you formulate an exit plan. During Covid, this is likely to be a phone or video call. The counselor can tell you what items you need (i.e., your safety plan, a “to-go” bag with clothing, medication, important papers, and an extra set of car keys in case you need to get out quickly, etc.), how to gather support, and where exactly to go when you leave. Speaking with a counselor can help you shift from feeling overwhelmed to feeling connected with the resources and shelter you need.
Help Needed: Getting a Restraining Order
A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is a crucial piece of protection for victims of domestic abuse. Restraining orders are a preventative measures to protect victims of domestic violence from future acts of domestic violence.
With a TRO in place, your abuser cannot contact you in any way, giving you the safety and space to get to a better place. This includes going to the residence or work place of the victim.
How To Get a TRO During Covid-19
You can get a TRO during Covid-19. The courts have put out the following information to help victims get the protection they need.
- Due to COVID-19, some NJ courthouses are still operating primarily remotely, but most have availability for in-person TRO applications. The Courts have put together a county-by-county TRO phone number list of where to call to get court availability information and directions for filing a TRO. When you call, state that you need to file for a TRO and you will be given next steps. Which county courthouse should you call? You have several choices for where to file for a temporary restraining order: It can be in the county where you live, where the defendant lives, where the act of violence took place, or in the county where you are seeking shelter.
- An individual who wishes to apply for a restraining order remotely, without going to a courthouse, can call the county’s Family Division Court to begin the process during normal court hours.
- Outside normal court hours, including weekends and holidays, victims can contact or visit their local police department to obtain the TRO. The police have the forms to fill out and will phone/video conference the victim with an on-call municipal court judge to issue the TRO.
Help Needed: Temporary Child Support & Alimony
One of the common hurdles keeping victims stuck in place is lack of financial resources and fear about what will happen to their kids. What victims may not know is that filing for temporary support and custody can be done at the same time you file for the temporary restraining order, giving you money to live and the secure knowledge that you are keeping your children safe.
How to Get The Help You Need
At the time you apply for the TRO, whether virtually or in person, you can also request temporary custody and child support and alimony, as a part of the restraining order. You do not need to have contact with your abuser to obtain the money or provide any identifying information to your abuser, such as an address. All contact information is confidential.
If a child support or alimony order already exists, that order will remain in full effect during the proceedings for the restraining order. A victim can modifications of these orders at the final restraining order hearing.
Help Needed: Meeting with An Attorney
Once you obtain a TRO, you will go through a final restraining order (FRO) hearing to make the protective order permanent. Having a family law attorney by your side to navigate this process can be an important way to make the strongest case possible. Your attorney can help you with all related custody and support matters. Should you wish to end your marriage in divorce, your family law attorney can guide you through the process.
How To Get Help During Covid-19
The best way to understand your rights and options in your domestic violence matter is to schedule a free consultation with a family law attorney. During Covid-19, many attorneys have switched to remote appointments using video conferencing or a phone call as preferred. If privacy is a concern, go to a friend’s house to take the call and/or borrow their phone so that no trace is left on your own devices.
Are you in an emergency abuse situation? Call 911 for immediate help.
Free Domestic Violence Attorney Consultations
You can get out and you can be safe. Meet with one of our compassionate family law attorneys for FREE in a virtual consultation (video conference or phone call) to learn more about legal remedies that can get you to safety, including filing for a restraining order, filing for temporary spousal and child support, emergency custody, and how to file for divorce, if applicable. Please call us today at (888) 888-0919, or click the green button below. For added peace of mind, please note that anything you discuss with your attorney is COMPLETELY confidential.