Domestic violence and restraining order FAQs: When you or a friend or family member is impacted by domestic violence or abuse, you have questions. What is a restraining order? How can I get a restraining order in New Jersey? How do I get help for domestic violence or abuse? And more. We have taken all of the questions we are frequently asked and have answered them in written format, below. Additionally, please view our video FAQs on domestic violence issues.
Restraining Order FAQs
What is a restraining order?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you are able to go to the family court in New Jersey and obtain a restraining order against the person who is abusing you. This is not a criminal procedure, but there can be a criminal case against your abuser, as well. A restraining order prohibits your abuser from contacting you in any way, either directly or through a third party.
At first, you will ask the court for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). Usually TROs are issued based only upon your side of the story and can be given to you through the family court or through the police department where you live, if the incident happens after normal court hours, if the judge believes that domestic violence has occurred. After receiving the TRO, you will receive a court date, usually within 10 days, for your Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing. At that hearing, you will present evidence to the court as to why you feel the TRO should become final. If the court agrees, you will be given an FRO which lasts, in most situations, forever.
How does the Final Restraining Order hearing work?
A Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing works like most other court hearings. You testify and present evidence, such as police or medical reports, and call witnesses to help your case. The other party can do the same to possibly try to prove that there was no domestic violence and, therefore, there should be no FRO issued by the court. The judge will decide, after hearing all the evidence, whether or not to issue the FRO. Hearings can be complicated and lengthy. Consider consulting with a family law attorney who is experienced in these types of hearings.
How do restraining orders work if we have children?
If there is a restraining order in place, there should be no contact between the parties. If you have children, it is advisable to have someone you trust handle the picking up and dropping off of your children to the other party. The court can grant parenting time (visitation) in the Final Restraining Order and can also order financial support. The terms of the parenting time will be written out in the FRO.
Do restraining orders work both ways?
Unless both parties are granted restraining orders against the other (known as cross restraints), only the person who has the restraining order is protected against the other contacting them in any way. However, if you have a restraining order against someone, it is strongly advised that you do not contact them in any way. Doing so may jeopardize your restraining order.
Do restraining orders work for telephone calls, texts and emails?
If you have a restraining order against someone, that person cannot contact you via any method, including in-person, through other people, or through phone, texts or emails. If you need to have some limited communication due to children, you may specify in the restraining order that communication be, for example, only through text and only regarding the children.
I have a restraining order entered against me. How can this affect me going forward?
There are serious consequences if you have a restraining order entered against you. You will be fingerprinted, photographed and entered into a nationwide database of people who have restraining orders entered against them. This will come up in a background check. You may have restrictions on your parenting time or custody of your children; you may be ordered to counseling or be subject to drug screening and you will be forced to relinquish any weapons/firearms you may have. This may impair your ability to find employment, especially if you work in the law enforcement area. If you feel you have a restraining order entered falsely against you, seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.
Do restraining orders work in other states?
Yes. If you are granted a restraining order in New Jersey, that order is valid and recognized in any of the other 49 states.
Can my restraining order be modified?
If you need to change something in your restraining order, you must file an application with the court asking for the change. The judge will decide, after a hearing where you would explain the need for the change, whether or not to grant your request.
How do I know that I need a restraining order?
If you are in fear for your safety or the safety of your children because of another’s words or actions, you should consider a restraining order. It is important to note that civil restraining orders through the family court only apply to certain relationships such as dating partners, spouses or family members residing together. If you are being abused by someone who is not a close relation, you must pursue restraints through the criminal courts.
How do I know that the abuser knows about the restraining order?
Once you obtain your temporary restraining order, that order is served upon the other party by the sheriff or police. They then inform the court and you that the order has been served.
How can a restraining order be violated?
Generally, any communication or contact with the victim including verbal or written, or even through a third party, is a violation of the restraining order. If a person violates the restraining order, he or she is subject to contempt of court charges and can be fined, jailed or be subject to any other punishment the court decides. If someone is contacting you and you have a restraining order against them, you must contact the police and report it.
I obtained a temporary and/or final restraining order, but I have changed my mind and want to drop it. What do I do?
If you wish to drop the restraining order, you must return to the domestic violence unit at your local courthouse and advise them that you do not wish to pursue a final restraining order or that you want to dismiss your FRO. You will be interviewed to make sure that you are not being forced or pressured by anyone to dismiss the restraining order. You will then go before a judge who will also question you to make sure that you really want to dismiss the restraining order. If the judge is satisfied that you are not being threatened or coerced, he or she will enter an order of dismissal. The restraints are then dissolved.
I have a Temporary Restraining Order against my boyfriend that I want to drop. I have a court date tomorrow for the Final Restraining Order hearing. What should I do?
You should appear in court tomorrow. When you get there, tell the court staff that you do not want to proceed with the hearing and that you would like to dismiss your Temporary Restraining Order. The judge will ask you several questions on the record about your willingness to dismiss your restraining order to be sure that you are not being forced, threatened or coerced to dismiss the TRO.
How long does a final restraining order last in New Jersey?
A final restraining order lasts forever in New Jersey, unless you voluntarily dismiss it or if the defendant proves to the court that there is no longer a need for the FRO. There must be a hearing for either of these to happen and the court makes the ultimate decision whether or not to end the restraints.
Do I have to be physically abused in order to get a restraining order?
No, the courts also recognize verbal and written abuse such as harassment and terroristic threats as domestic violence.
Can I get a restraining order against my ex-girlfriend’s brother who keeps calling threatening me?
No, not through the family courts. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act or PDVA in New Jersey is meant to cover people in certain types of relationships, only, such as past or present dating relationships or people who live in the same household. An ex’s brother does not appear to fall into any of these categories. You would have to pursue this harassment through the criminal or municipal court system.
Will the judge make custody decisions during my final restraining order hearing?
The judge can. If you are successful in court and the judge awards you a final restraining order or FRO, he or she can put into that FRO terms regarding custody, parenting time and/or child support. In that case, your restraining order acts as both your FRO and your custody order. However, if you are not successful and you do not get the FRO, then your Temporary Restraining Order, or TRO, is dismissed and no custody decisions will be made. You will have to file a separate custody action at that point and you will receive another court date for that matter to be heard.
What are civil restraints?
Civil restrains are an alternative to final restraining orders. You and the defendant can enter into an agreement that states that neither of you will abuse, harass or bother the other any longer. This type of restraint is not as serious as a restraining order and violating the agreement does not lead to the defendant being arrested, as with a restraining order. Instead, if the person abuses you again, you would have to file a motion with the court to enforce the agreement and wait for your court date to explain to the judge what happened. The penalty is then up to the judge. It is important to state that you must have some other type of family court case (such as a custody case) for civil restraints to be an option. It is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney regarding this alternative.
What do I have to prove in order to get a Final Restraining Order? I have a hearing next week.
In order to have your current Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) converted to a Final Restraining Order, or FRO, you have to prove two things to the judge: 1. That the act of domestic violence on which the TRO is based actually happened and 2. That you have an ongoing need for protection from your abuser. Once you prove the act of domestic violence occurred, you can talk about past incidents of domestic violence as evidence that you need continued restraint against your abuser. If you do not prove your case, you do will not receive the FRO, and the TRO will be dismissed. The FRO hearing can get complicated. Consider having an experienced family attorney represent you.
Can my ex be ordered to pay my legal fees if I get my FRO?
Yes. If the judge rules in your favor after your Final Restraining Order hearing and you obtain the FRO, the judge is free to make decisions about counsel fees and other issues such as parenting time or custody. But, if you are not awarded the FRO, your TRO will be dismissed by the judge and you will not be awarded counsel fees.
My ex is calling me 20-30 times per day domestic violence? It is really becoming too much to handle and I am starting to become frightened.
It could be domestic violence. Calling someone that many times per day, especially if they were told to stop contacting you could be seen as harassment or even stalking. No one should be force to put up with annoying or offensive behavior such as this. Consider filing for a Temporary Restraining Order or TRO. The family division at your local courthouse can assist you. After you obtain your TRO a Final Restraining Order hearing will be scheduled within 10 days. Be advised that harassment cases are the most difficult to prove, so be sure that you are gathering evidence such as your phone records. Be sure to be honest with the judge and tell the court that you are afraid. Consider hiring a family law attorney to represent you in the FRO hearing in order to improve your chances of being successful.
I live in New Jersey, but the person who is stalking me is an ex-boyfriend who lives in Florida. I have a hearing for a permanent restraining order in Florida next week, but I do not have the money to travel to Florida. Can I appear via telephone or can I have the hearing here in New Jersey?
You would need to contact a Florida attorney who can advise you on whether or not the courts in Florida would be willing to have you testify in court over the telephone. As far as having the hearing here in New Jersey, you would have to prove that New Jersey has jurisdiction to hear the matter and you would need to request a transfer of venue. This probably will not happen by next week.
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