Details and Effects of Restraining Orders

Conflict between former or current intimate partners can cause considerable psychological stress for both individuals, and the impact can ripple out to any children they may share, their extended family, their friends, and even their co-workers if the stress is affecting their behavior. If one of the partners obtains a restraining order against the other, the psychological stress may skyrocket for both.

If you have been served with a restraining order in New Jersey, it is important that you act carefully and avoid violating its terms, which could result in criminal charges. The Lento Law Firm has represented defendants named in restraining orders in communities across the state of New Jersey, and they can help you. Call 888-535-3686 to discuss your case, or use this online form. A member of the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team will explain the restraining order process and review the ways we can help you navigate this issue smoothly.

Restraining Orders and the Legal Process in New Jersey

A court-issued order applied for by one individual to protect them from another is known by different names depending on the state and the exact nature of the order. A personal protection order, order of protection, restraining order, and no contact order are some of the terms that are used. In New Jersey, this type of legal document is known as a restraining order. Guidelines used today were established in the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) of 1991, which describes nineteen criminal offenses that are used in the definition of domestic violence; committing one or more meets that definition. Here is the list:

  • homicide
  • assault
  • terroristic threats
  • kidnapping
  • criminal restraint
  • false imprisonment
  • sexual assault
  • criminal sexual contact
  • lewdness
  • criminal mischief
  • burglary
  • criminal trespass
  • harassment
  • stalking
  • criminal coercion
  • robbery
  • contempt of a domestic violence order
  • any crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury
  • cyber harassment

The individual who petitions the court for a restraining order in New Jersey is named as “plaintiff” in the document, while the individual they request protection from is named as “defendant.” These conditions must be met for a petitioner to apply for a restraining order:

  • The plaintiff must have a current or past qualifying domestic relationship, such as marriage, cohabitation, or a shared child with the defendant. Same-sex partnerships are included in this definition; the gender of the parties is not a factor.
  • The defendant has threatened to commit an act of violence against the plaintiff.
  • The order is necessary to prevent the defendant from committing an act of violence against the plaintiff in the future.
  • The defendant is at least eighteen years of age or an emancipated minor.

Temporary Restraining Order

Because the circumstances under which a restraining order may be called for are often volatile, with possible imminent physical harm for the petitioner, the first step in the process is usually applying for a temporary restraining order (TRO). The petitioner goes before a judge, or if the court is closed, they can apply at a police station, and the police contact a judge on behalf of the petitioner.

The defendant named in the temporary restraining order is not present in either case, but if the judge issues a TRO, a copy is sent to the police, who will give it to the defendant. The TRO lays out both restrictions on the behavior of the defendant and actions they must take. For example, a TRO may instruct the defendant to move out of the home they share with the plaintiff, stay away from the plaintiff's workplace, obtain drug addiction counseling, and pay child support. The court will also schedule a final restraining order hearing within ten days.

The Importance of Legal Representation if You Are Named in a Restraining Order

While having legal representation is not required if you are named as a defendant in a TRO in New Jersey, a knowledgeable, experienced attorney can help you understand its terms and advise you on how best to avoid a permanent restraining order. Both TROs and final restraining orders (FROs) are civil actions in New Jersey, but violating any term intended to prevent violence—in either a TRO or an FRO—is a criminal offense. If conviction follows, it can bring with it prison time, fines, a criminal record, and loss of employment and professional license.

Final Restraining Order Hearing

Both parties appear at the FRO hearing and may present evidence and call witnesses to testify, and the judge decides whether to dismiss the TRO and deny the request for an FRO or to enter an FRO with conditions the defendant must comply with, which in New Jersey includes loss of the right to own a firearm. It may also include loss of custody of any children the defendant has in common with the plaintiff. FROs are permanent, and successful appeals are rare.

Possible Psychological Effects of a Restraining Order on the Plaintiff

In New Jersey, a restraining order is intended to protect a victim of domestic violence from further harm. An individual who petitions the court for this type of protection is likely already suffering psychological stress from the circumstances that compelled them to seek it—as listed above. This may include experiencing sexual assault, harassment, or false imprisonment. Unfortunately, obtaining a restraining order does not necessarily abate any of the psychological stress and may introduce new sources, including the following:

Conflicting emotions – The plaintiff may feel both fear of and love for the defendant. Perhaps the plaintiff had felt safe and secure in the relationship for several years, and the defendant had become abusive recently. The plaintiff may second guess their decision to seek legal protection—maybe if they had waited a little longer, the defendant would have stopped being abusive without any intervention.

Financial worries – If the plaintiff is financially dependent on the defendant, they may worry about supporting themselves.

Embarrassment and shame – For many victims of domestic violence, by the time they petition for a restraining order, they have already endured years of psychological abuse, including humiliation, from the defendant. They may feel shame about their victimhood or even wonder if, on some level, they deserved the abuse. Embarrassment and shame can be especially acute in cases where the plaintiff is male, and the defendant is female, given social norms that assume a male is always more powerful and aggressive than a female.

Worry about children, other family members, or even pets – The plaintiff may worry about the effects of the disruption in the relationship between the defendant and any children they share because of the terms of the restraining order. They may worry that the defendant will harm their pet in retaliation for filing the order.

Fear that mental health issues will be used to undermine credibility – If the plaintiff has current or past mental health issues, they may be concerned that the defendant will use this history to undermine their credibility, suggesting they are delusional when they make accusations of abuse.

Betrayal – Many of those who petition the court for a restraining order find that friends and family members, even their own children, don't believe they had grounds or suggest that they deserved the abuse and could have avoided it if they had behaved differently, or should put up with it.

Fear that the restraining order will not protect them – The female plaintiff who knows about the statistics on women who have obtained restraining orders on male intimate partners may be especially worried. While most women killed by male intimate partners—about 90%—did not have a restraining order in place, about one-third of those who did have them were killed within a month of the order being issued, including many who were killed within two days. The plaintiff may also have anxiety about facing the defendant in court at the final restraining order hearing.

Possible Psychological Effects of a Restraining Order on the Defendant

As is the case for the plaintiff who obtained a restraining order, there can be a plethora of psychological effects on the defendant they name, including the following:

Embarrassment and shame – Given the likely restrictions on your activities that a restraining order mandates, it may be unavoidable for others to learn that you are named as a defendant, resulting in feelings of embarrassment and shame as you feel them looking at you through this new lens.

Stress over your relationship with your children – If the restraining order includes restrictions on access to your children, it can be extremely painful for you, and you may worry about the effects on them of their disrupted relationship with you.

Sense of failure – Maintaining close relationships is a fundamental part of life for most people. Getting to the point where your current or former intimate partner or spouse seeks legal protection from you can be profoundly unsettling, whether their allegations are based in fact or not.

Betrayal – If the allegations made by the plaintiff are false but people close to you still believe them, it can be devastating. They may treat you differently or shun you altogether, increasing your psychological turmoil.

Professional worries – While a temporary restraining order is a civil action and does not appear in criminal background checks, a final restraining order is entered in the New Jersey domestic violence database and court records, and it may show up in some searches. If you are convicted of violating either type of restraining order, any criminal conviction will appear in your criminal record. If you hold a professional license, being named as a defendant in a restraining order may cause action against you by the licensing board. Professional licensing boards tend to hold licensees to high standards of ethics and conduct, especially for professions such as medical doctors or psychologists, where the need for public trust is high.

Remorse – If the allegations the plaintiff makes against the defendant are well-founded, it may spur the defendant to come to a painful reckoning and acknowledge their own inappropriate behavior.

Shock – While the defendant attends the final restraining order hearing, they are not present when the plaintiff applies for the temporary restraining order and may be stunned to find themselves named in one. For example, a plaintiff has agreed to a day and time for the defendant to drop off their children, but the plaintiff does not show up. The defendant repeatedly calls the plaintiff to ascertain their whereabouts, and the plaintiff uses records of the repeated calls as evidence of stalking.

Contact the Lento Law Firm if You Have Been Served With a Restraining Order

Being named as the defendant in a restraining order is among the legal situations that can cause the most psychological stress, and you should not face it alone. In addition to being psychologically stressful, having a restraining order against you can be the beginning of serious legal consequences, including imprisonment, fines, loss of your right to own firearms, and loss of custody of your children. But it doesn't have to be.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can advise you on the ramifications of being named in a restraining order. You have the best chance of a positive outcome if you contact them as soon as you know you are named in a temporary restraining order. Our Criminal Defense will help you understand exactly what you must do to ensure that, when you attend the final restraining order hearing, the judge sees no reason to impose a final restraining order—a permanent restriction on your actions violation of which can result in criminal charges.

Call 888-535-3686 to discuss the circumstances around your restraining order, or use this online form. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has years of experience helping individuals in New Jersey like you navigate restraining orders, and they will treat you with respect and compassion as they use their experience and knowledge to help you obtain the best result possible.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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