Final Restraining Order

A restraining order (RO) is a civil court order that prevents someone from behaving or acting in a certain way towards another. For example, it might prevent a person from making physical contact with the alleged victim, communicating with them in any way (including online), or being in the same proximity as them. Courts grant restraining orders to protect victims of abuse, assault, and harassment from their abusers.

In NJ, there are various types of ROs. The exact order a person can apply for depends on the nature of the accused's conduct and the alleged victim's relationship with the accused. However, we can categorize most, if not all, restraining orders in NJ into two categories: temporary restraining orders (TROs) and final restraining orders (FROs).

Restraining orders, whether temporary or final, can all have serious – and even life-altering – consequences. If you're dealing with a restraining order matter, don't feel as though you need to handle the issue alone. You need appropriate advice and support to guide you through the process and ensure your legal rights are protected. The experienced restraining order attorneys at the Lento Law Firm are here for you at this critical moment in your life. Call now at 888.535.3686 or reach us online to get the legal assistance and counsel you deserve.

What Is a Final Restraining Order?

A FRO is the final step in the restraining order process. It offers indefinite protection against the alleged abuser behaving or acting in a certain way. It's usually issued in situations involving domestic violence because there must be a qualifying "domestic relationship" before the courts award restraining orders in NJ. Domestic relationships include current and past romantic partners and those with whom the parties have children in common.

The courts first award the victim (or "plaintiff") a temporary restraining order (TRO), which only lasts for around 10 days until a final hearing can be scheduled. At the hearing, should the judge deem it necessary, they will grant the final restraining order in the plaintiff's favor.

Civil Restraints vs. Final Restraining Orders

To be clear, FROs are formal court orders issued after a legal hearing. A civil restraint is a less formal agreement reached by parties prior to the FRO hearing. The defendant agrees to certain conditions, and there are no significant consequences if the defendant breaches the agreement unless the alleged victim takes further action to protect themselves.

Do Final Restraining Orders Mean Criminal Charges?

A FRO does not mean criminal charges or a criminal conviction. It's a civil order handled by civil court judges.

However, it could be issued by the court in circumstances related to a criminal case e.g., if there are crimes of domestic violence. The order could also indirectly result in criminal charges if the alleged victim asserts that the defendant violated the order (which is a criminal offense).

What Is the Process for Obtaining a Final Restraining Order?

The process begins when the plaintiff files for a temporary restraining order against the defendant. This is issued after hearing only one party's side of the story (the plaintiff's).

The TRO is served on the defendant, and a final restraining order hearing is scheduled for around 10 days' time. At this hearing, the judge hears evidence from both parties. This includes, for example, witness testimony, call records, medical records, photographs, and any other evidence deemed relevant.

The hearing is a chance for the defendant to show why, on the preponderance of the evidence, an FRO is unnecessary. However, the burden truly lies with the plaintiff to show that the order is necessary to protect them from harm and crimes of domestic violence.

How Should Defendants Prepare for a Final Restraining Order Hearing?

Given how critical it is to present a compelling case in their defense, a defendant should retain legal counsel before any FRO hearing. This is the most reliable way to ensure that all relevant evidence is presented to the judge, their legal rights are upheld and protected, and that there are no procedural anomalies. It's also the most effective way to ensure they present themselves eloquently and persuasively at the hearing.

There's never any guarantee of success, but hiring an attorney gives defendants the best shot at a favorable outcome. Call the Lento Law Firm now to discuss how we can assist.

What Happens if a Judge Grants a Final Restraining Order?

The existing temporary restraining order expires and is automatically replaced by the FRO. It applies immediately from the moment the judge enters the order, meaning defendants must discuss the order with their attorney to ensure they understand precisely what it means and what their restrictions are. For example, final FROs may impose additional restrictions the defendant must be aware of.

The FRO remains in force unless it's modified, revoked, or successfully appealed.

How Do Final Restraining Orders Impact Defendants in the Long Term?

The potential impact of a FRO on an individual cannot be overstated. It can, quite simply, be devastating.

  • Immigration: If a defendant is found guilty of a domestic violence crime or a FRO violation, they could face deportation. Similarly, any possible criminal allegations or FRO violations can impact citizenship and green card applications.
  • Employment: Although FROs don't show up on background checks if an employer learns of the restraining order, they could dismiss the defendant simply for having an FRO against them. Certain occupations, such as serving in the military or having certain levels of national security clearance, may no longer be options.
  • Custody: Acts of domestic violence could impact a defendant's ability to visit or even contact their children. How far an FRO impacts child custody and visitation depends on the allegations and whether the child is potentially at risk.
  • Firearms: Depending on the allegations, the FRO could specify that a defendant is unable to possess firearms. They could also lose their gun license. This could impact a defendant's livelihood significantly, e.g., if they're in the military or law enforcement.
  • Personal Life: FROs could make it impossible for a defendant to attend milestone events, such as weddings, graduations, or funerals. They may have a significant impact on the defendant's social life, which could result in isolation, loneliness, and mental health issues.

Do NJ Final Restraining Orders Apply in Other States?

If an NJ court had jurisdiction over both parties when it issued the FRO, and there were no procedural irregularities, then yes – plaintiffs can enforce NJ FROs across the US. It also applies automatically. There's no need for the plaintiff to file it or register it in another state.

Can a Defendant Appeal a Final Restraining Order?

Yes. However, it's important to understand that judges won't typically listen to the same case – or the same evidence – twice. What this means is that a defendant needs specific legal grounds for appealing the judge's decision; it's not enough just to ask them to reconsider the facts.

Grounds for appealing final restraining orders in NJ include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Misapplication of the law
  • Failure to consider all relevant evidence
  • Lack of sufficient explanation for reaching the verdict
  • Misapplication of civil rules of evidence

Defendants have a limited time to appeal final restraining orders. Usually, they must appeal within 45 days of the verdict. There are also various procedures the defendant must comply with before the courts will reconsider the verdict. The Lento Law Firm Team is happy to assist with FRO appeals – contact us urgently for assistance.

When Do Final Restraining Orders Expire?

Final restraining orders do not expire. They remain in force indefinitely unless they are successfully appealed, modified, or revoked by either the plaintiff or the defendant. That's why it's critical for those facing restraining orders to build the strongest possible case in their defense. Otherwise, they risk facing the lifelong consequences of a FRO.

Are There Consequences for Violating a Final Restraining Order?

Yes. Although final restraining orders are civil court orders, everything changes if the defendant ignores or violates the order. No longer a mere civil matter, restraining order breaches become criminal matters.

  • Restraining order violations could lead to criminal contempt charges.
  • Contempt charges attract penalties of up to $1,000 in fines and up to 6 months in jail. Second violations mean an automatic 30 days in jail.

Normally, police officers will arrest the defendant in the interest of protecting the alleged victim's welfare. There are exceptions if the police can find no probable cause to arrest the defendant; however, this is certainly not a guarantee, and FRO violations usually lead to an arrest.

It doesn't matter if the defendant accidentally violates the order. And even a small gesture, such as a text message, constitutes a violation. If there's a restraining order in place, the defendant must ensure they understand what they can and can't do. They must also refrain from engaging with the plaintiff if, for example, the plaintiff contacts them seeking a reconciliation. Unless and until the courts revoke a FRO, it's enforceable, and defendants must adhere to it. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can assist if there are accusations of FRO violations – contact us immediately if you need help.

Will Final Restraining Orders Show Up on Background Checks?

As final restraining orders are civil rather than criminal orders, they don't show up on regular background checks or more thorough criminal background checks. However, FRO violations are criminal offenses that will appear on a background check. It's also possible to discover a final restraining order if someone performs a Domestic Violence Central Registry search; however, this is uncommon unless you work in certain industries or sectors, such as law enforcement or the military.

Can Final Restraining Orders Be Vacated?

Yes. It's technically possible to revoke or vacate FROs in NJ. There are two ways to revoke a final restraining order:

  • The plaintiff can petition for the judge to revoke the order. They may do this if the order is no longer deemed necessary, e.g., if the parties have reconciled.
  • The defendant can petition for revocation. This is more common.

In all cases, the party filing for revocation must set out why it is appropriate. The judge will not revoke a restraining order unless they are convinced that it's safe to do so. For example, they will seek to ensure that the plaintiff has not been coerced or pressured into asking for a revocation.

Even if both parties are happy for the order to be revoked, the order remains in force unless a judge directs otherwise. This means that if the defendant contacts the plaintiff in contravention of the FRO, they're technically breaking the FRO even if the plaintiff is happy to hear from them.

Don't take risks with final restraining orders. Contact the Lento Law Firm to discuss seeking revocation.

Can Final Restraining Orders Be Modified?

Yes. As with revocation, it's possible to ask the courts to modify a final restraining order by petitioning for reconsideration. The judge will not reconsider the restraining order unless they're convinced that the plaintiff will be safe and that the order is truly no longer necessary. You must demonstrate that circumstances have changed.

Alternatively, plaintiffs may request the court to add restrictions, depending on the circumstances. Again, though, the judge must be convinced that these restrictions are necessary, as FROs already significantly impact a defendant's life.

Restraining order modifications are never guaranteed. Defendants should not rely on modifying a FRO later. The best course of action is always to avoid the judge issuing a FRO in the first place. Contact the Lento Law Firm Team to discuss how we may assist with FRO defenses.

How the Lento Law Firm Team Can Help

Restraining orders are complicated. If you're dealing with a restraining order matter, you need legal advice tailored to your specific situation. You also require an attorney on your side who will protect your legal rights at every stage of the process.

The solution is to contact the Lento Law Firm Team. Whether you're facing a final restraining order or you're seeking protection from an abuser, we can help. Our attorneys have successfully represented numerous individuals across NJ in restraining order cases. We have a deep and comprehensive understanding of the legal procedures involved, and we will guide you through the process so you feel supported and reassured.

There's too much at stake for you, professionally and personally, to risk handling a restraining order alone. Even the smallest procedural oversight could ruin your case. You deserve support from the compassionate and knowledgeable team at the Lento Law Firm. Call us now at 888.535.3686 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation.

​​​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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