New Jersey Civil Restraints FAQ
New Jersey offers disputing parties a helpful legal procedure known as civil restraint. Civil restraint can protect one party against another while ensuring that the restrained party still has reasonable liberty to work, travel, and the like. In short, civil restraint can provide exactly the relief that the parties seek while avoiding certain costs and risks of traditional legal procedures. Notably, civil restraint can present opportunities and advantages to both sides in these disputes, not just to the party seeking the restraint or opposing it. Read on to see if civil restraint is right for you and how Joseph Lento of the Lento Law Firm can help you.
- What is civil restraint?
- When is civil restraint available?
- Who seeks civil restraint?
- What exactly can civil restraint restrain?
- Is civil restraint one-sided?
- How does civil restraint differ from a final restraining order?
- Why prefer civil restraint over a final restraining order?
- How do the costs of pursuing civil restraint compare?
- How does a civil-restraint order enter?
- Can parties change or stop a civil-restraint order?
- Does civil restraint protect well enough?
- How does a lawyer help?
- New Jersey Civil Restraints Attorney
What is civil restraint?
Civil restraint is a court order to which the disputing parties have agreed. Civil restraint enables the parties to negotiate the order's terms rather than have the court impose an order on the parties. A civil-restraint order prohibits a party from engaging in certain conduct that interferes with the rights, health, safety, or other peace of the opposing party.
When is civil restraint available?
Civil restraint is generally available when the court has already issued a temporary restraining order. When a party who needs protection from another person files a lawsuit seeking a final restraining order, the court first issues a temporary restraining order to keep the peace while scheduling a full trial on the final restraining order. Once the temporary restraining order is in place, the parties may decide to negotiate a civil-restraint order rather than proceed to trial on the final restraining order.
Who seeks civil restraint?
Civil-restraint orders can enter in any proceeding involving the substantial rights, healthy, safety, or other peace of a party whom the opposing party's conduct threatens. Those matters may involve:
- domestic violence between married or unmarried cohabitants;
- neighbor disputes over boundaries or other matters;
- violence or threats of violence between co-workers or business partners;
- stalking, hazing, bullying, or other intimidating and harassing behaviors; and
- any other situation in which one presents a threat of injury to another.
What exactly can civil restraint restrain?
The simple answer is pretty much anything lawful to which the parties agree, and the court will accept. The key is to be thoughtful in balancing threatening or annoying behaviors against reasonable actions that are necessary for the parties to get on with their lives. Common examples of agreed-on restraints include:
- no in-person contact at all between the parties;
- in-person contact limited to certain public or other safe places;
- no communication of any kind between the parties;
- communication limited to certain necessary subjects such as child custody;
- communication limited to certain means such as a monitored portal;
- no entry into certain locations such as a workplace or residence;
- entry limited to certain parts of a workplace or residence;
- entry limited to certain times and days;
- entry limited to the presence of a third-party monitor;
- the safeguarding of personal property including vehicles and pets;
- the safeguarding of real property and fixtures such as boundary fences.
Is civil restraint one-sided?
Not necessarily. While lawsuits seeking a final restraining order typically begin with one side seeking the restraint, the answering side often has similar interests and concerns. Disputes are not always one-sided, all the fault on one side while no fault at all on the other side. Each side may benefit from the restraint of the other. When the parties turn to negotiating civil restraint, they may include reciprocal restraints. The restraints may be identical, such as neither party contacting the other. Or the restraints may be different, such as the first side not interfering at the workplace of the other side, while the other side is not to appear at the residence of the first. That flexibility is another benefit of civil restraint.
How does civil restraint differ from a final restraining order?
The main difference between civil restraint and a final restraining order is that with civil restraint, the parties negotiate terms and agree to the order. No trial takes place, meaning the parties need not appear in court to call witnesses and offer arguments. In effect, civil restraint satisfies both parties. By contrast, in the case of a final restraining order, the court imposes the order on its own terms after a contested trial. A final restraining order may satisfy both parties, just one party, or neither party. Enforcement involves another difference. Violating a final restraining order is a crime punishable with large fines and jail time, even prison for up to eighteen months in certain cases. By contrast, courts enforce civil restraint in contempt proceedings, without conviction of crime and usually ending well short of imprisonment.
Why prefer civil restraint over a final restraining order?
As the prior question and answer suggest, one great advantage to civil restraint is that the parties control the outcome. The court cannot impose civil restraint. Both sides must agree to the civil-restraint order. This control can mean a lot of good things. Negotiated civil-restraint orders can be sensitive to both sides' peculiar needs, whether in the actions they restrain or permit, or the times and days that they permit or restrain those actions. By contrast, with a final restraining order, the trial judge's ruling may feel more like bludgeoning than finely tuned justice. Trials rarely produce all winners. They more often produce winners and losers, sometimes even all losers. And again, violating a final restraining order is a crime with serious consequences that may include job loss, loss of a professional license and career, loss of a weapons license, hefty fine, and jail or prison time.
How do the costs of pursuing civil restraint compare?
Another big advantage of civil restraint over a final restraining order is that civil restraint can be significantly less costly than a final restraining order, in lawyer fees and court costs. A final restraining order's trial typically requires planning and preparation, including subpoenaing witnesses and marshaling exhibits like police reports and medical records. The trial itself takes additional time, and the trial may require pretrial and post-trial briefing, hearing, and other proceedings and orders. Trials have personal costs, too, in stress and embarrassment. By contrast, negotiating a civil-restraint order requires no trial costs, instead only wise counsel, sensitive communication, and skilled negotiation and drafting.
How does a civil-restraint order enter?
While the temporary restraining order remains in place, the parties through their lawyer representatives, communicate back and forth to negotiate the civil-restraint order's terms. Once the parties agree on terms, their lawyers draft the agreement for the parties to review, approve, and sign. The court then reviews, approves, signs, and enters the order. Once the court enters the order, both sides must abide by its terms, just as they agreed.
Can parties change or stop a civil-restraint order?
Yes, if they agree to do so and the court approves. Parties do sometimes find it helpful to ask the court to modify or clarify the agreed-on civil-restraint order. Parties also sometimes ask the court to terminate the order. Negotiation over a civil-restraint order sometimes lays the groundwork for that future agreement, as the parties get help seeing common ground. It is often better to settle on negotiated terms than to seek one-sided justice from an unfamiliar court.
Does civil restraint protect well enough?
Parties rightly hesitate to violate a civil-restraint order, knowing that courts have ready means of enforcing their orders. Any party who has evidence that the other party has violated a civil-restraint order may ask the court to enforce the order. Courts enforce civil-restraint orders and other orders through contempt-of-court proceedings. Contempt proceedings most often result in admonishment to comply but, in some cases, include fines paid into court or sanctions paid to the other party. In extreme cases, courts holding a party in contempt have law officers seize property or even jail violators. Often, though, contempt proceedings simply clarify the order's scope while confirming the violated party's ability to enforce it, causing the violating party to comply, with strong assurances.
How does a lawyer help?
Foremost, a skilled and experienced lawyer can help you discern what restraining orders can and cannot accomplish, aligned with your interests and goals. You might not know how a clear and sensitive civil-restraint order can help. A skilled advocate can also help you communicate productively with the other side, when you may be in no mental or emotional condition to do so. An experienced lawyer can also help you negotiate, convincing the other side of terms in your best interest. You may also need a discerning lawyer to draft an appropriate civil-restraint order and a trusted lawyer to get the court to approve.
New Jersey Civil Restraints Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento at the Lento Law Firm have handled many civil-restraint negotiations for clients seeking protection or seeking to avoid unreasonable restraints on their liberty. Justice isn't one size fits all. The Lento Law Firm helps you get the relief you need, adjusted to your own special circumstances. The Lento Law Firm can help you at every stage of a restraining order proceeding, before, during, and after, ensuring that you have trusted counsel along the way. Contact the Lento Law Firm for a case evaluation. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact us online.