In New Jersey, as in many jurisdictions, we might be aware of, or might personally know, people who have been victims of domestic violence. It is important to be educated about the fact that individuals who are victims of domestic violence do have legal tools available to help ensure their safety. If you or a loved one is the victim of domestic abuse, it is important to know your rights, and/or to contact an experienced domestic relations attorney who will help you navigate the legal system to ensure that you are protected from your abuser.
Two of the most common tools are protective orders and restraining orders. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they generally refer to orders issued by a court to prevent one person from contacting or approaching another person. Below is a general explanation of protective and restraining orders for domestic violence victims in New Jersey as legislated by N.J.S.A. 2C:17-29.
Types of Restraining Orders in New Jersey:
- Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): This is an emergency order that can be granted if a victim of domestic violence is in immediate danger. The TRO is a short-term solution, intended to provide immediate protection until a court hearing can be scheduled to decide on a Final Restraining Order (FRO). It is not necessary for the alleged abuser to be present in court with the victim in order to successfully obtain a TRO.
- Final Restraining Order (FRO): After a TRO is granted, a hearing is scheduled within 10 days, during which the court decides whether to issue a FRO. This order provides longer-term protection and can be permanent in New Jersey. Both parties (the victim and the alleged abuser) are usually present at this hearing.
How To Obtain A Restraining Order
- Victims can file for a restraining order at their local county’s Superior Court, Family Division.
- In cases where the court is closed (e.g., weekends, holidays), victims can go to the local police station to obtain an emergency TRO.
- It is important to know that there is no fee charged for filing this restraining order.
Protections Offered By A Protective Order or Restraining Order
Some of the protections that may be offered by a protective order in New Jersey include:
- Prohibiting the defendant from returning to the scene of the domestic violence: This often means the shared residence, even if it is owned or leased by the defendant.
- The defendant must maintain a minimum distance: Specify a minimum distance that the defendant must maintain between themselves and the protected individual(s) at all times.
- Prohibiting the defendant from future acts of domestic violence: This can be a broad prohibition.
- Prohibiting contact with the victim: This includes prohibiting the defendant from going to the victim’s residence, workplace, or school, or from having any other form of contact with the victim, such as phone calls, texts, or messages through third parties.
- Temporary possession of personal property: This could allow the victim to temporarily possess personal property, such as a car, checkbooks, identification documents, etc.
- Custody of children: A protective order can grant temporary custody of children to the victim and may also provide for visitation rights, which could be supervised.
- Financial support: The court might order the defendant to pay temporary financial support to the victim or their children.
- Prohibiting the defendant from possessing any weapons: This can be especially important if weapons were involved in the incident(s) of domestic violence or if there is a concern about potential future violence.
- Mandatory counseling: The court may order the defendant to attend professional domestic violence counseling or another appropriate form of therapy.
- Protections related to pets: The protective order may grant the victim temporary custody of pets and prohibit the defendant from harming or taking them.
- Any other relief: The court can order any other type of relief that it deems appropriate to protect the safety of the victim.
No Contact Orders in New Jersey
New Jersey laws also provide for a “no contact” order. This is an order issued by a judge in a criminal proceeding that prohibits a person from contacting another specific person and is often a condition of bail. A no contact order prohibits a person from being in contact with another person, either verbally or in person. It is different from a restraining order, which is a civil order issued by a judge in Family Court, pursuant to the request of an alleged victim of domestic violence.
Cases in which a judge may include a no contact order as a condition of bail include domestic violence charges, assault charges, sex crimes, harassment charges, and any other case that involves an alleged victim who may be better protected with a no contact order. No contact orders are most commonly applied to domestic violence charges, where there is a personal relationship between two individuals. However, it is absolutely crucial that the defendant obey a no contact order, as violating it could result in one’s detention.
It is essential to understand that the exact provisions of a restraining order will vary depending on the individual circumstances. If someone is seeking a protective order in New Jersey, they should consult with an experienced family law attorney to get accurate and current information on their rights and the protections available to them. Contact Bozanian McGregor to help you navigate through a domestic relations situation. You can trust that we will provide you with legal, as well as emotional support, if you have been subjected to domestic abuse.