New Jersey Restraining Orders FAQ

The state of New Jersey protects domestic violence victims and certain other crime victims with protective orders, commonly known as restraining orders. New Jersey law permits restraining orders as part of the 1982 law known as the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. A restraining order is a court-ordered document that can prohibit one person from contacting or coming within a certain distance of someone else for a set period.

New Jersey Restraining Order FAQ

  1. What happens when you get a restraining order in New Jersey?
  2. How do restraining orders work in New Jersey?
  3. What types or kinds of restraining orders are there in New Jersey?
  4. What is the restraining order process in New Jersey?
  5. How are restraining orders served in New Jersey?
  6. What does a restraining order do?
  7. What are restraining orders used for?
  8. What do restraining orders look like in New Jersey?
  9. When do restraining orders take effect in New Jersey?
  10. Are restraining orders criminal or civil?
  11. Are restraining orders a criminal offense?
  12. Do restraining orders go on your criminal record?
  13. How do I enforce a restraining order in New Jersey?
  14. What court issues and handles restraining orders?
  15. Who should I call about restraining orders?
  16. What is a Sexual Assault Restraining Order?
  17. How do restraining orders work in public places?
  18. How do restraining orders work in a school?
  19. What are temporary restraining orders, and how do they work in New Jersey?
  20. When do TROs expire?
  21. Are restraining orders permanent in New Jersey?
  22. Can restraining orders expire in New Jersey?
  23. How long do restraining orders last in New Jersey?
  24. Do restraining orders have an expiration date?
  25. Is a restraining order for life?
  26. Are restraining orders enforceable in other states?
  27. Do restraining orders go across state lines?
  28. Can out-of-state restraining orders be enforced in New Jersey?
  29. Can New Jersey restraining orders be enforced out of state?
  30. Are restraining orders public records in New Jersey?
  31. Do restraining orders show up on background checks?
  32. Can restraining orders affect employment?
  33. Can employers see restraining orders?
  34. Will a restraining order ruin your career?
  35. Will a restraining order affect your military career?
  36. Can I use a firearm in the military while on a base with a restraining order in place?
  37. Will a restraining order affect my security clearance?
  38. Will a restraining order affect my immigration status?
  39. Can a restraining order affect my green card application?
  40. Can a restraining order affect my citizenship application?
  41. Will a restraining order affect my nursing license?
  42. Can you search or find restraining orders online?
  43. Can restraining orders affect whether you get a lease?
  44. Are restraining order hearings open to the public?
  45. What happens in a restraining order hearing?
  46. Can police seize weapons for domestic violence in New Jersey?
  47. How do restraining orders affect your gun rights?
  48. What is the police procedure at a domestic violence scene in NJ?
  49. How does a victim drop a domestic violence case in NJ?
  50. Can restraining orders be lifted or removed?
  51. Can restraining orders be overturned?
  52. Can restraining orders be expunged?
  53. How do you remove a restraining order against you in NJ?
  54. Can you file a restraining order on someone else's behalf in NJ?
  55. What is a civil restraints agreement in NJ?
  56. Are restraining orders easy/hard to get in New Jersey?
  57. Are restraining orders free in NJ?
  58. Can restraining orders be appealed in NJ?
  59. Can restraining orders be denied?
  60. Why do restraining orders get denied?
  61. How many restraining orders can one person have?
  62. How many restraining orders can you get?
  63. Can a restraining order be filed against a minor?
  64. How do restraining orders affect child custody issues?
  65. Will a restraining order affect my custody case?
  66. Can a restraining order stop you from contacting your child?
  67. How do restraining orders work with child visitation?
  68. Are you allowed to see your children if you get a restraining order in NJ?
  69. What kind of behavior warrants a restraining order?
  70. Can you get a restraining order for stalking?
  71. Can you get a restraining order for domestic violence?
  72. Can you get a restraining order for text messages?
  73. Can you get a restraining order for emotional or psychological abuse?
  74. Can you get a restraining order for online harassment?
  75. Can you get a restraining order for verbal abuse?
  76. Can you get a restraining order for slander?
  77. Can you get a restraining order against you without cause?
  78. What are "Civil Restraints"? Are "Civil Restraints" better than a restraining order?
  79. Do restraining orders go both ways?
  80. Who can put a restraining order on someone?
  81. Who can get a restraining order against you?
  82. Can your neighbor get a restraining order against you?
  83. Can your roommate get a restraining order against you?
  84. Can your coworker get a restraining order against you?
  85. How do restraining orders work in the workplace?
  86. Can a restraining order stop you from going to a funeral?
  87. How do restraining orders work with social media sites like Facebook?
  88. What happens if you get served with a restraining order after being acquitted of domestic violence?
  89. What happens when a judge denies a restraining order?
  90. Why should you fight or contest a restraining order?
  91. What's the difference between restraining orders and protective orders?
  92. What's the difference between restraining orders and non-molestation orders?
  93. What's the difference between restraining orders and no-contact orders?
  94. What's the difference between restraining orders and peace bonds?
  95. How do restraining orders work with spousal support and alimony?
  96. How do restraining orders work with third-party contact?
  97. Can I include another person on my restraining order in New Jersey?
  98. Who is a protected person under a restraining order?
  99. What evidence can you use in a New Jersey restraining order trial?
  100. Can you get evicted because of a restraining order?

What happens when you get a restraining order in New Jersey?

There are two types of restraining orders in New Jersey, temporary (TRO) and final (FRO). A final restraining order in New Jersey is permanent. The order will remain in place unless one of the parties petitions the court to lift or modify it. Both types of protective orders can include provisions protecting the defendant, providing temporary child custody, financial support, and prohibiting contact or harassment between the plaintiff and defendant.

If a defendant violates a restraining order, it is a criminal offense and considered criminal contempt of a court order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. Any allegation of violating a restraining order mandates an arrest. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-31. The violation can be as small as a text or email to the victim. A second violation will result in a mandatory 30 days in jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.

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How do restraining orders work in New Jersey?

If you file a domestic violence complaint, you can also ask for a temporary restraining order (TRO) at a local police station or the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court at a county courthouse. If filing a complaint locally, you must file it at the police station where you live, where the defendant lives, or where the violence occurred. If you make the complaint locally, the police will often contact a municipal court judge and help you obtain a TRO in person or over the phone. Otherwise, you can complete the paperwork for a TRO at the Family Part at the courthouse. A judge will then meet with you to determine if you qualify for the TRO.

Once a court enters a TRO, the police will serve the defendant with the TRO and the date of the final restraining order hearing, usually within ten days. The police will confiscate all of the defendant's firearms. If the defendant lives in the same home with you, they will have to leave while the TRO is in force, even if the defendant owns the home.

At the final restraining order hearing, both parties will have the chance to tell their side of the story and present evidence and witnesses. A FRO, if entered, is usually more detailed than a TRO and is permanent. The order will remain in effect unless you or the defendant petition the court to lift or modify the FRO.

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What types or kinds of restraining orders are there in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, there are three types of restraining orders, temporary restraining orders (TRO), final restraining orders (FRO), and sexual assault.

  1. Temporary Restraining Orders

When you file a complaint for a restraining order, you can request an ex parte TRO be issued immediately. "Ex parte" means that only you will be present, the court will not notify the other party, and the judge will make a decision based on the information you provide. A judge can grant a TRO if it is necessary to protect your life, health, or well-being. A TRO will last until the hearing for a final restraining order, normally scheduled within ten days. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).

If you can't be physically present in court, a judge can still issue a TRO based on your sworn testimony or complaint or the sworn testimony of someone representing you if you are physically or mentally incapable of filing the TRO personally. The judge will need to agree that the circumstances are sufficiently urgent to excuse your failure to appear in court.

For emergency or after business hours situations, there is generally an "on-call" municipal judge who can grant a temporary ex parte restraining order. If the municipal judge denies your TRO, you can re-file your petition based on the same incident in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court when it opens. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-28(f),(i).

  1. Final Restraining Orders

The court will typically schedule a hearing for a final restraining order within ten days. After a hearing in which you both have a chance to tell your side of the story and present evidence and witnesses, a judge can grant you a final restraining order. The order can be indefinite unless one party petitions the court to end or modify the restraining order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-29(d). If the court issues a FRO, the defendant will face a $500 fine and can no longer legally own a firearm. The police will also fingerprint and photograph the defendant for the police database.

  1. Sexual Assault Restraining Order

The New Jersey Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA) allows courts to issue a civil protective order to protect a victim of sexual violence from their assaulter. A judge can issue an ex parte TRO under SASPA if they believe it's necessary to protect the safety and well-being of the victim. The judge must also find that the victim was subject to non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt to do so. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:14-13, et seq. A hearing for a final order typically takes place within ten days.

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What is the Restraining order process in New Jersey?

If you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, you can apply for an ex parte temporary restraining order. This means that the judge will only listen to you and your story and see your evidence. The court will not notify the other party. If the judge feels that a TRO is necessary to protect your life, health, or well-being, they will issue the temporary order and set a hearing for the final protective order, usually within ten days.

At the hearing for the final restraining order, both sides will have the opportunity to tell their story and present evidence and witnesses. To enter a domestic violence FRO, the judge must find:

  • The parties have a qualified domestic relationship: A domestic relationship includes a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, members of the same household, or the parties have one or more children together.
  • The defendant committed an act of violence: Acts of domestic violence include assault, harassment, terroristic threats, criminal restraint, stalking, sexual assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal trespass, robbery, criminal coercion, cyber harassment, contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime or "disorderly persons offense," or any other crime that involves the risk of death or serious bodily injury.
  • There is an immediate need for restraints to prevent further instances of domestic violence.

To enter a sexual assault FRO, the judge must make a specific finding of non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt of such conduct, or if the defendant stipulates that they committed the act.

A final restraining order, if entered, is usually more detailed than a TRO and may include provisions such as those:

  • Preventing contact or harassment between the plaintiff and the defendant.
  • Temporary custody of any children.
  • Provide financial support, including rent, mortgages, and other financial obligations.
  • Protection from violence.
  • Preventing the defendant from owning or possessing firearms.
  • Counseling or therapy.

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How are restraining orders served in New Jersey?

If a judge issues a temporary restraining order (TRO) and the police did not arrest the defendant, the police will serve it on the defendant and a date for a final restraining order (FRO) hearing, usually within ten days. If the plaintiff lives in the same home, the police will escort the plaintiff home and order the defendant to vacate the premises. If the TRO mandates that the police arrest the defendant, they will do so. The police will also arrest the defendant if they fail to cooperate or to vacate the home.

If the defendant isn't home or the police can't locate them, the police will forward the TRO to the family court, indicating that they could not complete service. They will keep copies of the order at the police station to serve the defendant once found.

If the defendant lives in a different jurisdiction, the police will notify the appropriate agency in the municipality where the defendant works or lives to serve the defendant with either a TRO or FRO promptly.

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What does a restraining order do?

A New Jersey restraining order can prohibit the defendant from contacting or harassing a plaintiff and prohibit the defendant from coming within a certain distance of the plaintiff. Restraining orders may also include additional details providing for:

  • Temporary custody of children;
  • Financial support or payment or mortgages, rent, or other financial obligations;
  • Prohibiting the defendant from contacting the plaintiff, her family, or place of work;
  • Prohibiting the defendant from owning or possessing firearms;
  • Counseling or therapy; and
  • Protection from future violence.

For SASPA restraining orders, the order can:

  • Prevent future acts of sexual violence;
  • Prevent stalking;
  • Prevent the defendant from contacting the plaintiff;
  • Prevent online or in-person harassment;
  • Prevent the defendant from entering places where the plaintiff might be, like work, school, or home.

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What are restraining orders used for?

In New Jersey, the courts use restraining orders to protect domestic violence victims and sexual assault victims from their abusers or assailants. They can also use restraining orders to prevent contact between the parties, provide spousal or child support, and order temporary child custody. Restraining orders are a necessary protection for victims of violence and sexual assault.

But restraining orders can also have severe consequences for the defendant. If a court orders a final restraining order (FRO), the defendant will be fined $500, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a domestic violence registry. New Jersey law also prohibits the defendant from owning or possessing firearms. In some cases, police can remove the defendant from their home. The defendant may lose custody of their children, be ordered to pay spousal and child support, and continue paying a mortgage or rent. If you face a hearing for a restraining order, it's essential to contact an experienced New Jersey criminal attorney as soon as possible.

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What do restraining orders look like in New Jersey?

A temporary restraining order (TRO) is titled "New Jersey Domestic Violence Civil Complaint and Temporary Restraining Order." It is a four-page document that asks information about the defendant, including name, date of birth, social security number, address, phone number, work phone number, and physical description. The form requires the plaintiff's signature and contains several parts:

  1. Defendant Information:
    • A detailed description of how the defendant endangered the applicant's life, well-being, or health, including the date, location, and incident specifics. You can also attach a police report and indicate any criminal offenses that the incidents might constitute.
    • Any prior history of domestic violence, including any police reports;
    • Criminal history or criminal complaints in this matter;
    • Whether the police seized weapons in a domestic violence call, and whether the police arrested the defendant;
    • Children, including their names, ages, sex, and with whom they reside;
    • The current or former relationship between the plaintiff and defendant;
  1. Relief Requested:

The relief section of the TRO form asks the plaintiff to detail the requested relief, including:

    • Prohibiting acts of future violence;
    • Prohibiting returning to the scene of the violence;
    • Barring the defendant from specific locations like work, school, or the home;
    • Prohibiting the defendant from harassing the plaintiff or causing anyone else to harass the plaintiff;
    • Prohibiting stalking, following, or threatening to harm the plaintiff;
    • Ordering the defendant to pay emergency financial relief;
    • Monitoring of conditions or restraints;
    • Ordering a psychiatric evaluation;
    • Prohibiting the defendant from any firearms or weapons and requiring that the defendant surrender them and any licenses;
    • Granting the plaintiff the exclusive possession of a joint-residence;
    • Granting temporary child custody;
    • Other relief;
    • Ordering the police to accompany either the plaintiff or the defendant to the home to gather personal belongings
    • Ordering parenting time or no parenting time;
    • Ordering punitive damages;
    • Ordering spousal or child support;
    • Ordering medical coverage;
    • Ordering rent or mortgage payments;
    • Ordering the defendant into a batterer's intervention program;
    • Ordering temporary possession of specific property, like a car.

The order also notifies the defendant that violating the order can result in civil or criminal contempt charges.

  1. Warrant to Search for Weapons

The order also contains a warrant permitting police to search for and seize weapons.

  1. Notice to Appear

A TRO also contains a notice to appear for both parties, with a date for a final restraining order hearing. The notice informs the parties that they should also bring pay stubs, mortgage or rent information, health insurance information, and financial records.

  1. Return of Service

The return of service indicates how the police served the defendant and the defendant's signature, acknowledging receipt of the complaint.

You can find the TRO form on the New Jersey court webpage.

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When do restraining orders take effect in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, both a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a final restraining order (FRO) go into effect as soon a judge enters them. A TRO will stay in effect until the hearing for the FRO. If the plaintiff doesn't appear, then the TRO will expire. Once the court enters a FRO, it is permanent unless one of the parties asks the court to dissolve or modify the order.

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Are restraining orders criminal or civil?

Restraining orders are civil actions in New Jersey. However, violating a restraining order, whether temporary or final, is a criminal offense and considered criminal contempt of a court order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. If the plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated the restraining order, even if it's a small violation like a text or email, it mandates an arrest. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-31. A second violation of a restraining order will result in 30 days in jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.

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Are restraining orders a criminal offense?

While restraining orders are a civil order, violating a restraining order can be a criminal offense. A second violation of a restraining order results in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. However, if a judge enters a final restraining order (FRO) against a defendant, the police will fingerprint and photograph the defendant and enter their information into the domestic violence database.

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Do restraining orders go on your criminal record?

No, a restraining order won't go on your criminal record. A restraining order is a civil violation in New Jersey and typically won't appear on a standard criminal background check. However, the Domestic Violence Central Registry is available to the public and searchable. The DV registry records offenders' information to help police and courts facilitate restraining orders and protect domestic violence victims. Once a court issues a final restraining order, the police will fingerprint and photograph the defendant and enter their information into the national and state domestic violence registry. No court must find you guilty of a crime to place you on this registry.

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How do I enforce a restraining order in New Jersey?

Enforcing a restraining order in New Jersey can be both a criminal and a civil matter. If a defendant violates Part I of a restraining order concerning contacting, harassing, or harming the plaintiff, the police can enforce the restraining order. Violating this portion of a restraining order is a criminal offense and is considered criminal contempt of a court order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9.

If you are a plaintiff and claim that the defendant violated your restraining order, the police must arrest the defendant. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-31. The violation can be as small as a text or call from the defendant. If the defendant violates the order a second time, it will result in a mandatory 30 days in jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.

You can enforce Part II of a restraining order that calls for financial support, punitive damages, health coverage, etc.… through a motion, affidavit, or order to show cause in the civil courts. Part II includes:

  • An order for parenting time;
  • An order requiring the defendant to pay monetary compensation;
  • An order requiring the defendant to receive professional domestic violence counseling;
  • An order requiring the defendant to make rent or mortgage payments; and
  • An order granting either party temporary possession of personal property.

A defendant who "purposely or knowingly violates any provision" of a TRO or FRO is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if the conduct that violates the restraining order is also a crime or "disorderly persons offense" under N.J.S.A.2C:29-9(b). In all other cases, a defendant that knowingly violates an order is guilty of a "disorderly persons offense."

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What court issues and handles restraining orders?

In New Jersey, a municipal court judge may handle and issue a temporary restraining order (TRO). However, the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court typically handled most applications for TROs and final restraining orders.

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Who should I call about restraining orders?

If you are a victim of domestic violence considering a restraining order, you can fill out the paperwork at the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court at your local county courthouse. If you are applying for an emergency temporary restraining order, a domestic violence advocate may assist you with the paperwork and the relief you request. You may also be able to meet with someone in the Chancery Division to determine if you are eligible for a TRO. You may also visit your local police station and ask for assistance or call 911 if this is an emergency. Your local police may be able to help you with the paperwork and contact a municipal court judge to issues a TRO over the phone or in person.

If you are a named defendant in an application for a final restraining order (FRO), you should call an attorney as soon as possible. The consequences of a FRO can be long-lasting and affect child custody, your job, and your ability to live in your own home.

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What is a Sexual Assault Restraining Order?

The New Jersey Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA) allows courts to issue civil protective orders if needed to protect a victim of sexual violence from their assailant. A judge can issue an ex parte TRO under SASPA if it is necessary to protect the safety, health, and well-being of the victim. A hearing for a final order typically takes place within ten days.

A judge can issue a final restraining order (FRO) under SASPA if they find that the victim was subject to non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt to do so. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:14-13, et seq. The judge may also issue a FRO if the defendant stipulated that they did harm the plaintiff.

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How do restraining orders work in public places?

Restraining orders will often indicate that the defendant cannot be within a certain distance of the plaintiff or at specific locations like the plaintiff's home, work, or school. If you are in a public location, the rules can be murky. But it's best if the defendant to the protective order leaves. If the plaintiff to a TRO or FRO tries to make it look like the defendant is violating a restraining order, the courts will not be amused. A restraining order is a protective measure and is not a weapon.

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How do restraining orders work in a school?

Generally, New Jersey schools must comply with court civil and criminal orders. Schools also have a responsibility to keep students safe while in school. If you are the plaintiff to a restraining order, you should provide your school with a copy. If you and the defendant attend the same school, discuss this with your school's administration as soon as possible. If your school has a Title IX coordinator, that may be an excellent place to start. Be sure to explain the nature of the incident leading to the restraining order and request that the school remove the defendant from your classes. In some cases, depending on school policy, the defendant may be barred from campus or have their schedule modified to avoid contact with you.

If you are a defendant to a restraining order and you attend the same school as the plaintiff, you should be sure to contact an attorney and discuss it with the school. Whether you are in high school or college, remember that you still have due process rights based on New Jersey state law, federal Title IX law, and school policies and procedures.

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What are temporary restraining orders, and how do they work in New Jersey?

A temporary restraining order is a legal, civil document issued by a judge to protect victims of domestic violence or sexual assault from their assailants. Victims can request a temporary ex parte restraining order (TRO), which means that the defendant will not be present during the hearing. Rather, the court will only hear evidence from the plaintiff, and the court will not notify the defendant. A judge may grant a TRO if it is necessary to protect the plaintiff's life, health, or well-being. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).

A TRO will typically prevent the defendant from contacting the plaintiff and prevent the defendant from further violence. Once the court issues the TRO, the police will serve the defendant with the TRO along with a date for the hearing for the final restraining order, which usually happens within ten days.

In some emergencies, if a domestic violence victim calls the police, the police can assist the victim in filling out the application for the TRO and contact a municipal judge to issues a TRO over the phone or in person. For emergencies or after hours, a municipal judge usually remains "on-call" and can grant a temporary ex parte restraining order. The New Jersey legal system's policy ensures that victims of domestic violence always have access to the court system, even after hours.

If the victim can't be present in court for some other reason, a judge can still issue a TRO based on the victim's sworn testimony or someone representing the victim if the victim is mentally or physically incapable of personally filing the TRO. If the municipal judge denies the TRO, the plaintiff can re-file the petition in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court when it opens. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-28(f),(i).

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When do TROs expire?

Temporary restraining orders generally remain in place until the hearing for the final restraining order. If the plaintiff doesn't show up for the hearing, the TRO will expire.

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Are restraining orders permanent in New Jersey?

Before a judge issues a final restraining order, the victim will typically apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO). The court will not notify the defendant of the hearing and only hear evidence from the plaintiff to the restraining order. If the judge believes that the restraining order is necessary to protect the life, health, or well-being of the plaintiff, they will issue the TRO.

The police will serve the TRO on the defendant along with a date for the hearing for the final restraining order (FRO), usually within ten days. At the FRO hearing, the judge will hear evidence and witnesses from both parties. If a judge issues a FRO, it is permanent. The court will not lift the order unless one of the parties asks the court to lift or modify it.

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Can restraining orders expire in New Jersey?

Temporary restraining orders generally only last until the final restraining order hearing, which usually happens within ten days. If the plaintiff doesn't show up for the FRO hearing, the TRO will expire. If the judge issues a FRO, it will not expire. The restraining order will remain in place until one of the parties ask the court to lift or modify the order.

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How long do restraining orders last in New Jersey?

A temporary restraining order (TRO) typically only lasts until the final restraining order (FRO) hearing. If the plaintiff does not show up for the FRO hearing, the TRO will expire. If the judge issues a FRO, it will remain in place indefinitely unless one of the parties asks the court to lift or modify the order.

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Do restraining orders have an expiration date?

Final restraining orders (FROs) typically do not expire. A temporary restraining order (TRO) will only remain in place until the hearing for the FRO. If the plaintiff doesn't appear for the FRO hearing, the TRO will expire. However, if the court issues a FRO, it will not expire. The order will remain in place until one of the parties petitions the court to lift or modify the FRO.

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Is a restraining order for life?

Temporary restraining orders (TROs) are just that – temporary. They typically only remain in place until a hearing for a final restraining order (FRO). If the plaintiff fails to appear for the FRO hearing, the TRO will expire. If the court issues a FRO, the order will remain in place permanently. The FRO will remain in force until one of the parties asks the court to modify or lift the order.

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Are restraining orders enforceable in other states?

In some cases, the plaintiff may enforce a restraining order outside of New Jersey. Federal law provides that restraining orders in one state will have the full faith and credit of the court of another state, as long as:

1. A New Jersey court had jurisdiction over both parties when it issued the restraining order, and

2. The defendant had reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard at the hearing. The plaintiff does not have to register the restraining order in another state to enforce it.

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Do restraining orders go across state lines?

Yes, restraining orders work across state lines. Federal law gives full faith and credit to a New Jersey court order in other states. As long as the New Jersey court: (1) had jurisdiction over both parties to the restraining order; and (2) the defendant had reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard at the restraining order hearing, the courts of the other states will enforce a New Jersey restraining order.

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Can out-of-state restraining orders be enforced in New Jersey?

Yes, New Jersey courts can enforce out-of-state restraining orders. If a plaintiff moves to New Jersey with an out-of-state restraining order, they have three choices:

  • Do nothing. New Jersey courts and law enforcement will enforce the out-of-state order.
  • Have the order recognized by the Family Part, Chancery Division of the New Jersey Superior Court as a valid order.
  • Obtain a New Jersey restraining order.

To obtain a New Jersey restraining order, the plaintiff will need to apply with the court to register the out-of-state order. To do so, the plaintiff must send notice of the application and hearing to the defendant. In many cases, the defendant will fail to appear, and the court will issue the New Jersey restraining order.

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Can New Jersey restraining orders be enforced out of state?

Yes, other state courts will enforce New Jersey restraining orders. Under federal law, every other state's courts will grant full faith and credit to the court orders of New Jersey. As long as the New Jersey court had jurisdiction over both parties to the restraining order and the defendant had reasonable notice of the hearing and the opportunity to be heard, out-of-state courts will recognize the New Jersey restraining order as valid. Other states may have procedures for recognizing a New Jersey restraining order, but it is not necessary.

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Are restraining orders public records in New Jersey?

Yes, restraining orders are public records in New Jersey, and anyone can find them with a search of the Domestic Violence Central Registry. While a restraining order may not show up on a general background check, a more detailed search may find it.

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Do restraining orders show up on background checks?

Restraining orders don't typically show up on standard criminal background checks because they are civil violations rather than criminal. A more general background check will show residence history, educational background, military service, credit report, driving record, and criminal history. A criminal background check will show arrests, warrants, convictions, and any incarceration records. A criminal background check will also show whether someone is a sex offender.

However, a more thorough search of an individual's background may find a restraining order through the Domestic Violence Central Registry. Moreover, if the police arrest someone for violating a restraining order, that will show up on a criminal background check. Violating a restraining order is a criminal offense.

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Can restraining orders affect employment?

A restraining order might affect employment. Typically, there's no reason an employer would know about a restraining order unless they perform a background check more detailed than the standard check that also searches the Domestic Violence Central Registry. However, employment in New Jersey is at-will, meaning your employer doesn't need a reason to fire you. If your employer finds out about your restraining order, they may fire you if they wish to.

If your job requires you to carry a gun, you will need to discuss the restraining order with your employer. As long as a Final Restraining Order is in place, the law prohibits you from owning or possessing a firearm. The court may require you to surrender your weapon or have a police officer confiscate it.

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Can employers see restraining orders?

A general background check typically won't reveal a temporary or final restraining order. However, once a judge puts a FRO in place, your photograph, fingerprints, and information will be entered into the Domestic Violence Central Registry. The database is for law enforcement and courts issuing restraining orders to protect victims of domestic violence and issuing restraining orders.

However, the domestic violence database is public, and if an employer does a more thorough background check that searches the domestic violence registry, they will find a restraining order. If you have a security clearance or serve in the military, your employer will find out about a restraining order. Even if a temporary restraining order expired and the court never entered a final order, the TRO will still appear in the domestic violence registry.

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Will a restraining order ruin your career?

A restraining order shouldn't ruin your career, but it can cause problems. A general background check typically won't reveal a restraining order. However, if you have a final restraining order in place connected to civil court records, there is a chance it may turn up. Once a judge enters a final restraining order (FRO), the police will photograph the defendant and take fingerprints to enter in the statewide Domestic Violence Central Registry. This is a public database containing all temporary and final restraining orders. Any employer that searches the domestic violence registry will find your restraining order, even if it was a temporary restraining order that expired without the entry of a final order.

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Will a restraining order affect your military career?

Unfortunately, a restraining order can affect a military career. While a temporary or final restraining order alone is not grounds for a military discharge, if your order states that you cannot possess a firearm, you cannot possess a weapon or ammunition even in the course of your official military duties. Typically, all New Jersey final restraining orders expressly prohibit the defendant from owning or possessing a firearm. This can be very limiting for a military career.

Moreover, final restraining orders do not expire in New Jersey. The court will only lift a restraining order if asked to do so by one of the parties. If you are in the military and facing a hearing for a restraining order, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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Can I use a firearm in the military while on a base with a restraining order in place?

Typically, if you have a restraining order against you, you may not possess a firearm, even if you are on a military base like Fort Dix. Under the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, certain people cannot possess a firearm or ammunition. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(8) (2015). This includes individuals with a court order against them, like a protection from abuse order or restraining order if the defendant had a chance to participate in the hearing and the court found:

  • The defendant was a credible threat to the physical safety of their intimate partner or child; or
  • The order specifically prohibits the attempt or threatened use of force reasonably expected to cause bodily injury against an intimate partner or child; or
  • The order prohibits the defendant from stalking, harassing, threatening, or engaging in conduct that would place an intimate partner or child in reasonable fear of bodily harm to the partner or child.

The Federal Gun Control Act does have an exception for military personnel. If you need to use a firearm during your military duties, you may only possess one during those duties. See 18 U.S.C. § 930(d)(2). However, there are two situations where this exception to federal law may not apply:

  1. If your restraining order specifically states that you cannot own or possess a firearm, then you may not possess one, even for military duties on a military base.
  2. If your commanding officer decides that you should not possess a firearm or ammunition.

While your commanding officer's decision that you shouldn't possess a firearm isn't grounds for a military discharge, if you violate the order, you could be subject to disciplinary measures and an Article 15. Punishment could include loss of rank or pay, extra work assignments, and a written reprimand in your file. If you are in the military and facing a hearing for a New Jersey restraining order, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to avoid lasting impact on your career.

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Will a restraining order affect my security clearance?

New Jersey restraining orders are civil, rather than criminal, violations. You need to know this to correctly complete your SF-86 form, the questionnaire for national security positions. You will need to report a restraining order, whether temporary or final, on this form. If there is a criminal restraining order against you, you would report it in section 22.3, which asks, "Is there currently a domestic violence protective order or restraining order issued against you?" However, if you are either the restraining party or the restrained to a civil restraining order, you will need to report it in section 28, which asks, "Have you been a party to any public record civil court action not listed elsewhere on this form?"

While it's impossible to say whether a security clearance will or won't be granted with a restraining order in place, the context of the entire situation will be important. If you're facing a hearing for a restraining order in New Jersey, it's essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney, particularly if it could affect your career or security clearance.

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Will a restraining order affect my immigration status?

A restraining order can affect your immigration status. Generally, the government can deport you if convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, a drug-related offense, an aggravated felony, a firearms violation, or a crime involving domestic violence. You may also face deportation if you violate a protective order.

While a restraining order is a civil violation in New Jersey, violating the terms of a temporary or final restraining order is a criminal violation. Even an allegation that you have violated a TRO or FRO requires the police to arrest you. If you violate a restraining order, even innocently, you could face deportation.

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Can a restraining order affect my green card application?

As a general rule, any criminal conviction for a crime against another person, a crime of "moral turpitude" is grounds for removal from the United States and prohibits you from entering the country. Crimes of "moral turpitude" include domestic violence. A restraining order, however, is a civil offense in New Jersey. It is not a criminal conviction.

However, a restraining order can affect your green card application because violating the terms of a restraining order is a criminal offense. If the plaintiff to the restraining order alleges that you have violated the terms of the order, the police must arrest you. The Immigration and Nationality Act states:

Any alien who at any time after entry is enjoined under a protection order issued by a court an whom the court determines has engaged in conduct that violates the portion of a protection order that involves protection against credible threats of violence, repeated harassment, or bodily injury to the person or persons for whom the protection order was issued is deportable. For purposes of this clause, the term "protection order" means injunction issued to prevent violent or threatening acts of domestic violence, including temporary or final orders issued by civil or criminal courts (other than support or child custody orders or provisions) whether obtained by filing an independent action or as a pendente lite order in another proceeding.

See 8 U.S.C. § 1227 (a)(2)(E)(ii) (2008). If you have a pending green card application and face a hearing for a restraining order, you should consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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Can a restraining order affect my citizenship application?

Potentially any criminal conviction, particularly for a crime of "moral turpitude," can affect your citizenship application and result in deportation. A restraining order in New Jersey is a civil, rather than criminal, offense. While a civil restraining order won't result in deportation, it can affect your ability to become a naturalized citizen. The establishment of good moral character is part of the naturalization process, and a restraining order could affect that.

Violating a restraining order, however, is a criminal offense. If a court convicts you of violating a restraining order, you could face deportation. The violation is also a fourth-degree offense in New Jersey and can result in a jail sentence of up to 18 months. As a result, if you are in the citizenship process and face a restraining order hearing, you must consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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Will a restraining order affect my nursing license?

A restraining order alone should not affect your nursing license in New Jersey. A restraining order is a civil offense. However, if you violate the restraining order, it is a criminal offense, which could impact your nursing license.

In New Jersey, the Office of the Attorney General's Division of Consumer Affairs handles professional licensing. The New Jersey Board of Nursing falls under this office. The nursing board may decide to pursue disciplinary action against a nurse in a proceeding separate from the criminal proceeding. Penalties imposed by the nursing board could vary from censure to suspension or revocation of a license. If you are a nurse facing a restraining order hearing, you should consult with an experienced defense attorney who is also well versed in professional licensing issues.

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Can you search or find restraining orders online?

Yes, you can find restraining orders online. When a court enters a restraining order, they will enter the defendant's information, including a photograph and fingerprints, into the Domestic Violence Central Registry. The registry is public information. While New Jersey's court website does not allow online access to the domestic violence database, many online services will search it for a fee.

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Can restraining orders affect whether you get a lease?

A New Jersey restraining order is a civil violation, not a criminal violation. When a court enters a restraining order, the police will photograph and fingerprint the defendant and enter their information in the Domestic Violence Central Registry. However, this registry typically will not appear on a standard background check.

A violation of the restraining order is a criminal violation. It will appear in a criminal background check and the standard background check typically run by landlords or leasing agents. A violation of a restraining order may prevent you from obtaining a lease.

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Are restraining order hearings open to the public?

Final restraining order hearings are generally open to the public. Under New Jersey court rules, all hearings, motions, appearances, pre-trial conferences, arraignments, sentencing conferences, and appeals presumptively happen in open court. See N.J. Ct. R. 1:2-1. The court will only close for a hearing if denying access to the public will serve a significant interest.

A temporary restraining order hearing can be ex parte, meaning only one party appears. When a judge decides whether to issue a TRO, the court will not notify the court of the hearing. The judge will only hear evidence from the plaintiff. In emergencies, this hearing may take place in the judge's chambers or even over the phone.

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What happens in a restraining order hearing?

If a judge issues a temporary restraining order (TRO), the plaintiff doesn't dismiss the order, and civil restraints do not resolve it, the matter will proceed to a hearing for a final restraining order (FRO). The hearing will usually happen within ten days of a judge issuing a TRO.

All final restraining order hearings occur in the Family Part of New Jersey Superior Court before a judge. There is no jury; rather, the judge will evaluate the evidence and make the final decision. As with a trial, it is the plaintiff's burden to show that the judge should issue the FRO.

At the hearing, both sides will have a chance to tell their story and present witnesses and evidence. To enter the FRO, the judge must find by a "preponderance of the evidence," that:

  1. The parties have a qualified domestic relationship.

A "qualified domestic relationship" includes a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, members of the same household, or the parties have one or more children together. 

  1. The defendant committed an act of violence.
    • Acts of domestic violence include:
    • Assault
    • Harassment
    • Terroristic threats
    • Criminal restraint
    • Stalking
    • Sexual assault
    • False imprisonment
    • Kidnapping
    • Burglary
    • Criminal mischief
    • Criminal sexual contact
    • Lewdness
    • Criminal trespass
    • Robbery
    • Criminal coercion
    • Cyber harassment
    • Contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime or "disorderly persons offense," or any other crime that involves the risk of death or serious bodily injury
  1. There is an immediate need for restraints to prevent further acts of domestic violence.

The hearing and the witness testimony and other evidence presented by the parties must conform to the New Jersey court rules and rules of evidence. It can be challenging to navigate this one your own, either as a plaintiff or a defendant. Consult an attorney experienced in New Jersey restraining orders to ensure that you don't lose the chance to present your best case.

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Can police seize weapons for domestic violence in New Jersey?

Yes. Police can seize weapons for domestic violence in New Jersey. Under New Jersey law, police must seize all firearms at the scene of a domestic violence incident if the officer reasonably believes that domestic violence occurred, and the weapon might expose the victim to further danger. See N.J.S.A. § N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:25-21d(1). An officer can also seize any permit to purchase a handgun issued to the assailant. See id.

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How do restraining orders affect your gun rights?

A restraining order can prevent you from owning or possessing a firearm in New Jersey. New Jersey law prohibits the sale, ownership, possession, or control of a firearm by anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-7b(1), (2). The state also authorizes judges to prohibit defendants from purchasing or owning firearms if the defendant is charged with, but not yet convicted, of a domestic violence crime. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-19; 2C:25-26a.

New Jersey law also prohibits anyone subject to a domestic violence restraining order from purchasing, owning, possessing, or controlling a firearm. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-29(b); 2C:58-3c(6). Judges also may prohibit the defendant in an ex parte temporary restraining order, where the defendant had no prior notice of the hearing, from buying or possessing firearms. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-28f, j; 2C:25-29b.

Anyone convicted of domestic violence crimes in New Jersey must immediately surrender their firearms to the police, along with any permits to purchase handguns and any firearm purchase identification cards. Anyone subject to a permanent or temporary restraining order where the judge ordered the defendant not to possess firearms must do the same. The prosecutor has 45 days to petition the court to take the title. See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:25-21d(2), (3).

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What is the police procedure at a domestic violence scene in NJ?

New Jersey has a Domestic Violence Procedures Manual that contains law enforcement standards for domestic violence cases and guides local law enforcement agencies to develop written standards and procedures. Law enforcement must adhere to specific procedures for:

  • Responding to and reporting of domestic violence incidents;
  • Processing domestic violence complaints and restraining orders;
  • Domestic violence arrests;
  • Handling weapons and firearms that are related to domestic violence complaints and restraining orders; and
  • Training police officers to respond to domestic violence complaints.
  1. Police Response:

Police must respond promptly to any reports of domestic violence and thoroughly investigate any accusations. They must notify victims of any social services available and ensure that the victims are safe. The police should also hand victims a document titled “Notice of Rights” informing victims of their rights under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence ActSee N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq. (2016). Police must also explain that victims can file for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a criminal complaint of domestic violence.

  1. Arrests

There are two types of arrests that police can make when responding to a domestic violence call - mandatory and discretionary. Police must arrest the assailant if:

  • They have probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence occurred;
  • The victim shows signs of injury from an act of domestic violence;
  • The alleged assailant violated a temporary or final protective order; or
  • They have probable cause to believe the assailant used a weapon to commit the act of domestic violence.

Police may arrest the assailant if they have probable cause to believe that domestic violence occurred, even if the conditions for a mandatory arrest aren't present. This determination is more nuanced and calls for a police officer's subjective analysis of the scene.

  1. Weapons

If the police have probable cause to believe an act of domestic violence occurred, they must question every person on the scene about the presence of weapons in the home. If the police see a weapon in plain sight, learn of a weapon in the home, or discover a weapon through a search, they must confiscate it. If they confiscate any firearms, they must also confiscate the accused's permit and firearm purchase identification card and any permit to purchase a handgun.

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How does a victim drop a domestic violence case in NJ?

In New Jersey, the police and prosecutors don't need a victim to “file charges” to pursue a domestic violence charge. A prosecutor can pursue domestic violence charges without the victim's cooperation, especially if there is independent evidence that the defendant committed the crime.

However, just because a prosecutor can pursue domestic violence charges without the victim's consent doesn't mean that they will. It's not ideal to go to court without a cooperative victim to testify. If the prosecutor decides to pursue the case anyway, they will subpoena the victim to testify. If the victim fails to appear or fails to testify, the court can hold them in contempt.

If you are a victim concerned about being forced to testify in court, you should get a copy of the police report and call an attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney can explain your options.

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Can restraining orders be lifted or removed?

A temporary restraining order (TRO) is generally issued without notice to the defendant and lasts only until the hearing for the final restraining order, usually within ten days. If the plaintiff drops the restraining order or doesn't show up for the final hearing, the TRO will expire. If a judge issues a final restraining order, the order is permanent until one of the parties petitions the court to remove or modify it.

If the victim asks the court to lift a restraining order, the court will consider several factors to determine whether they are acting in their self-interest or being coerced or threatened by someone else. Additionally, if either party asks that the court lift the order, the judge will consider:

  • The plaintiff's request;
  • The plaintiff's objective fear of the defendant;
  • The parties' relationship;
  • Whether the defendant violated the order in the past;
  • Other violent acts of the defendant;
  • Whether the defendant participated in domestic violence counseling or therapy;
  • The age and health of the defendant;
  • Drug or alcohol use;
  • The good faith of both parties;
  • Any restraining orders issued in other jurisdictions;
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant.

If the judge believes there may be good cause to lift the order, they will order a hearing where both parties may present evidence and witnesses.

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Can restraining orders be overturned?

If a judge issues a final restraining order in New Jersey, the defendant has 45 days to appeal. There must be grounds for the appeal, meaning there is some argument that the judge made a mistake of fact or law in coming to a decision.

If you believe the restraining order is no longer necessary, you can file a motion with the court asking that the court dissolve the order. If the judge believes there is good cause to life the order, the court will order a hearing where both parties may present witnesses and evidence.

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Can restraining orders be expunged?

You cannot expunge a restraining order in New Jersey, but that doesn't mean that expungement is necessary. In New Jersey, a court will first issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) without notice to the defendant. The TRO typically only lasts until the hearing for the final restraining order (FRO). If the plaintiff drops the order, asks the judge to dismiss it at the hearing, or fails to appear for the hearing, the TRO will expire without the entry of a final order. In this case, there is nothing to expunge.

If a judge enters a FRO, however, the defendant cannot later have it expunged. The order is permanent, and only a court order can remove it. If one or both parties ask the court to vacate the order, the court will consider the motion if circumstances have changed, and the FRO is no longer necessary. But even if a judge lifts a FRO, it will remain in the Domestic Violence Central Registry. A defendant can only contest the decision to enter a FRO for 45 days.

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How do you remove a restraining order against you in NJ?

Typically, a New Jersey court will first enter a temporary restraining order (TRO) without notice to the defendant. The TRO only lasts until the final restraining order (FRO) hearing, which is usually within ten days. If the plaintiff drops the suit or does not appear at the FRO hearing, the TRO will expire without the entry of a final restraining order. In that case, the defendant won't have to do anything to remove the restraining order.

At the FRO hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to present their side of the story and introduce witnesses and evidence. If the judge orders the FRO, the defendant only has 45 days to appeal the decision to enter the order. After that time, the FRO is permanent unless one or both parties move to vacate or modify the order. The court will generally only entertain a motion to vacate if the plaintiff also agrees or circumstances have significantly changed, such that the order is no longer necessary. The judge will generally hold another hearing, with notice to both parties. At the hearing, both parties will again have the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence.

If you are facing a hearing for a restraining order, it's best to consult with an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. It is much harder to appeal or later attempt to have a FRO lifted after the fact. If you retain counsel, your attorney can help present the best possible defense at a FRO hearing and hopefully prevent the order from entry in the first place.

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Can you file a restraining order on someone else's behalf in NJ?

You can file a restraining order on someone else's behalf if they are physically or mentally unable to do so or to appear in court. A guardian or parent can also file for a restraining order on behalf of their minor child. If, for example, a non-custodial parent harms a child during visitation, the custodial parent could apply for a temporary restraining order on the child's behalf.

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What is a civil restraints agreement in NJ?

In New Jersey, civil restraints are an alternative to final restraining orders. For civil restraints, the parties enter into an agreement that neither party will harm, harass, or bother the other. This agreement is another type of civil order, but it does not carry the same weight and automatic force of law as a final restraining order. A civil restraints agreement is also only available for parties that already have a matter pending before the family court, such as a child custody case.

If a final restraining order is in place, if the defendant violates the order, it is a criminal offense. If the plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated the agreement, the police must arrest the defendant. With civil restraints in place, the same does not hold. If one party violates the restraining order, the other party has to file a motion to enforce the agreement, wait for the court date, and then explain to the judge what happened. Any penalty for violating civil restraints will be up to the judge.

If you are considering entering a civil restraints agreement as an alternative to a final restraining order, you should consult an attorney about the repercussions and advantages or disadvantages of this approach.

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Are restraining orders easy/hard to get in New Jersey?

Restraining orders are not particularly easy to get in New Jersey. These orders are generally only available to victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. There are several steps to obtain a FRO:

  1. Apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO).

A TRO is typically available only for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. The plaintiff will apply at the courthouse or police station and have an audience with a judge in person or by phone. A judge will enter a TRO if necessary for the life, health, or well-being of the plaintiff.

  1. Appear at the final restraining order hearing.

After the judge enters a TRO, the police will serve the defendant with the order and FRO hearing date. The hearing date is usually within ten days of entry of the TRO. If the plaintiff fails to appear, the TRO will expire.

  1. Present evidence and witnesses in support of the claim

At the hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to share their story with the judge and present evidence and witnesses. As with most hearings, the New Jersey rules of evidence and court rules will apply to both parties' evidence and testimony. These rules can be challenging to navigate for the uninitiated. That's why it's a good idea to consult an attorney well versed in restraining orders.

  1. Meet the standard of proof and satisfy all elements of the claim

To enter a domestic violence FRO, the judge must find:

  • The parties have a qualified domestic relationship, meaning they have a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, members of the same household, or have one or more children together.
  • The defendant committed an act of domestic violence: Acts of domestic violence include assault, harassment, terroristic threats, criminal restraint, stalking, sexual assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal trespass, robbery, criminal coercion, cyber harassment, contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime or "disorderly persons offense," or any other crime that involves the risk of death or serious bodily injury.
  • There is an immediate need for an order to prevent further domestic violence.

To enter a sexual assault FRO, the judge must make a specific finding of non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt of such conduct, or if the defendant stipulates that they committed the act.

The standard of proof for a FRO is the "preponderance of the evidence," meaning that the plaintiff must convince the judge must that the plaintiff's version of events is more accurate than not.

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Are restraining orders free in NJ?

In New Jersey, there is no fee for filing a restraining order or for having it served. You do not need a lawyer to file for a restraining order, but it may be helpful to consult an attorney to ensure that you present your best possible case. Ensuring that you present all of the evidence needed to obtain a restraining order can be particularly important if you think that the defendant will contest the restraining order.

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Can restraining orders be appealed in NJ?

You cannot appeal a temporary restraining order (TRO). A judge typically enters a TRO without notice to the defendant, and the order is only good until the hearing for the final restraining order (FRO). The hearing for the FRO is typically within ten days of entry of the TRO. At the hearing for the FRO, both parties will have the opportunity to tell their story and present evidence and witnesses to the court.

You can appeal a FRO within 45 days. After that, a FRO is permanent, and only a court order can remove it. If one of the parties asks the court to lift or modify the order, the judge may have another hearing to consider the matter. The court will generally only lift the order if the plaintiff agrees, and there's no evidence that they're being coerced or threatened. The court may also grant the motion to lift the order if circumstances have changed, and the order is no longer necessary to protect the life, health, or well-being of the plaintiff.

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Can restraining orders be denied?

Yes, the court can deny a restraining order. To obtain a final restraining order, the court must find:

  1. The parties have a qualifying domestic relationship, which includes a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, they share a household, or the parties have one or more children together.
  1. The defendant committed an act of domestic violence, which includes:
    • burglary
    • criminal mischief
    • criminal restraint
    • terroristic threats
    • criminal sexual contact
    • criminal trespass
    • false imprisonment
    • harassment
    • stalking
    • homicide
  1. There is an immediate need for restraints to prevent further acts of domestic violence against the plaintiff.

If the plaintiff fails to prove these elements by a preponderance of the evidence, the judge will deny the FRO.

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Why do restraining orders get denied?

To obtain a final restraining order, the judge must find:

  1. The parties have a qualifying domestic relationship, which includes a current or former marriage, sharing the same household, a dating relationship, or they have a child together.
  2. The defendant committed an act of domestic violence.
  3. There is an urgent need for restraints upon the defendant to prevent further domestic violence against the plaintiff.

The most common reason for a court to deny a FRO is if the plaintiff fails to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant poses a serious threat of harm to the plaintiff.

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How many restraining orders can one person have?

An individual can get restraining orders against more than one person in New Jersey. However, the plaintiff will have to meet all of the elements necessary for each separate order, including:

  • Having a qualifying domestic relationship with the defendant in each restraining order;
  • Each defendant committed an act of domestic violence;
  • There is an urgent need for an order to prevent further acts of domestic violence by each defendant.

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How many restraining orders can you get?

There is no hard and fast rule about the number of individuals against which you can get restraining orders. As long as an individual meets the criteria necessary for the FRO in each restraining order application, theoretically, there are no limits.

However, there is no need for more than one restraining order against one person. Final restraining orders in New Jersey are permanent and will remain in place unless one of the parties petitions the court to lift or modify the order. If necessary, the plaintiff can ask the court to modify a FRO to make it broader. If the defendant violates the restraining order, it is a criminal offense, and the police must arrest the defendant. There is no need to obtain another restraining order.

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Can a restraining order be filed against a minor?

Generally, you can only file a restraining order against an emancipated minor. A minor is “emancipated” if they:

  • Have been married,
  • Entered military service,
  • Had a child, or
  • Were legally emancipated by a court or administrative agency.

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How do restraining orders affect child custody issues?

If a parent committed domestic violence, New Jersey family law courts could restrict or remove the visitation rights of that parent. Proving domestic violence typically happens through a final restraining order (FRO) hearing before a judge or criminal court. When considering whether to remove or restrict parental visitation rights during a FRO hearing, the judge will consider:

  • Was the act of domestic violence directed at the children, the parent, or both?
  • Is the parent charged with domestic violence still a threat to the children or other parent?
  • Does the defendant have a history of domestic violence?
  • How many times or how often did domestic violence occur?
  • Does the defendant have a criminal record or pending criminal cases?
  • What injuries occurred as a result of domestic violence?
  • The testimony of police officers and any other witnesses.

Based on all of the evidence and testimony, the judge may order the defendant to attend domestic violence counseling or therapy, attend anger management courses, attend parenting classes, or limit or remove parental visitation pending rehabilitation. In extreme cases, the judge may permanently revoke the defendant's child custody or visitation rights. As a result, it's essential to consult an experienced criminal law attorney who is well versed in family law and restraining order litigation before heading into a final restraining order hearing.

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Will a restraining order affect my custody case?

A restraining order can affect your custody case. If the judge enters a final restraining order, they may include restrictions on child custody, visitation, child support, and even contacting the children. In this situation, the FRO acts as both a restraining order and your child custody determination.

If the judge denies the FRO, the judge will not make any custody or visitation decisions, and you will need a separate child custody action to resolve your custody and visitation issues. If a judge believes that the plaintiff falsely accused the other parent of domestic violence or abuse, they will react harshly. A parent making false accusations could find their parental visitation rights restricted or removed.

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Can a restraining order stop you from contacting your child?

In some cases, yes. A final restraining order may also include decisions concerning child custody and visitation. The judge may also order you to refrain from contacting the plaintiff and your children, including in-person, via text, phone calls, or letters. The judge will consider things such as:

  • Whether the assailant directed the act of domestic violence at the parent, child, or both;
  • The injuries that occurred as a result of domestic violence;
  • How often domestic violence occurred;
  • If the defendant has a history of domestic violence, a criminal record, or pending criminal charges;
  • Whether the defendant is still a threat to the child or parent;
  • The testimony of police and others.

If you still have visitation, the judge may still restrict you from contacting the plaintiff. In that case, you should have a trusted person able to contact the plaintiff or the plaintiff's representative to arrange for communication or visitation exchanges.

If you violate a restraining order in New Jersey, it is a criminal offense and could land you in jail for up to 18 months. It's best to contact an attorney before a final restraining order hearing to protect your parental rights. After the judge enters a FRO, you have 45 days to appeal. A FRO is final and does not expire until one of the parties asks the court to lift or modify the FRO.

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How do restraining orders work with child visitation?

A final restraining order (FRO) may limit or eliminate child custody and visitation for the defendant. If the defendant still has visitation or custody rights, the judge may still restrict them from contacting the plaintiff, even by text or phone call. In cases like this, the defendant and plaintiff will need trusted people to facilitate the exchange of children for visitation and communication between the parents.

In some cases, the judge may indicate on the FRO that the defendant may only contact the plaintiff via a specific method and only concerning communication about the children. For example, the FRO may note that the defendant can contact the plaintiff by text only to facilitate communication about the children's safety or well-being and facilitate visitation. Beware though. If the defendant abuses this method of contact or uses it to harass the plaintiff or the children, a judge may consider this a violation of a FRO. Violating a FRO is a criminal offense. If the plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated the FRO, the police will arrest the defendant. If found guilty of violating the FRO, the defendant could face up to 18 months in jail.

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Are you allowed to see your children if you get a restraining order in NJ?

If you obtain a final restraining order in New Jersey, you can request that the judge include specific provisions regarding child custody and visitation. You can request primary custody as well. If the judge believes that the defendant is a threat to the safety, health, or well-being of you or your children, the judge may award primary custody in the FRO.

If the defendant to your FRO still has primary custody of the children and you have visitation, the judge can include specifics about how you will both facilitate your visitation rights. The FRO can allow the defendant to contact you only to communicate about the children or facilitate visitation. You can also use a trusted friend, family member, or representative to facilitate communication or visitation exchanges so that you do not have direct contact with the defendant.

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What kind of behavior warrants a restraining order?

New Jersey created restraining orders to protect the victims of domestic violence or assault.

  1. Domestic Violence Restraining Order

Before obtaining a domestic violence restraining order, there must be a predicate act of domestic violence. These acts include:

  • Assault
  • Harassment
  • Terroristic threats
  • Criminal restraint
  • Stalking
  • Sexual assault
  • False imprisonment
  • Kidnapping
  • Burglary
  • Criminal mischief
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Lewdness
  • Criminal trespass
  • Robbery
  • Criminal coercion
  • Cyber harassment
  • Contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime or "disorderly persons offense," or
  • Any other crime that involves the risk of death or serious bodily injury
  1. Sexual Assault Restraining Order

To enter a final restraining order under the New Jersey Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA), the judge must make a specific finding of:

  • Non-consensual sexual contact
  • Sexual penetration
  • Lewdness
  • An attempt of such conduct

The defendant can also stipulate that they committed the act.

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Can you get a restraining order for stalking?

Yes, you can obtain a restraining order for stalking if you also have a qualified domestic relationship. This relationship can be a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, sharing the same household, or having a child together.

New Jersey law defines stalking as knowingly engaging in "a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his safety or the safety of a third person or suffer other emotional distress." See N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-10b (2009). To obtain a final restraining order for stalking, you will need to prove each element to the judge beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will also need to believe that the order is necessary to prevent further acts of domestic violence or stalking.

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Can you get a restraining order for domestic violence?

Yes, you can get a restraining order for domestic violence in New Jersey. New Jersey law permits civil restraining orders as part of the 1982 law known as the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, you will first apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO). The judge will enter the TRO if you have a qualifying domestic relationship, and the judge believes the restraint is necessary to protect your life, health, or well-being, or the life, health, or well-being of your children. A qualifying domestic relationship includes a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, having a child together, or sharing a household. Upon entry of the order, the police will serve the defendant with the TRO and the date for the final restraining order (FRO) hearing, usually within ten days.

At the FRO hearing, you will need to show that the defendant committed a predicate act of domestic violence by a preponderance of the evidence. These acts include:

  • Burglary
  • Criminal mischief
  • Criminal restraint
  • Terroristic threats
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Criminal trespass
  • False imprisonment
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Homicide

If the judge believes that restraints are necessary to prevent the defendant from committing future acts of domestic violence, they will enter the FRO. While a FRO is a civil order, violating the order is criminal contempt of court, a criminal offense that can result in up to 18 months in jail.

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Can you get a restraining order for text messages?

You may be able to get a restraining order for text messages in New Jersey. You can obtain a domestic violence restraining order if:

  1. Qualifying Domestic Relationship: You have a qualifying domestic relationship such as a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, you share a child, or you share the same household.
  1. Predicate Act of Domestic Violence: The defendant to the protective order committed a predicate act of domestic violence. These acts include harassment and cyber harassment.

New Jersey law defines harassment as someone who, "with the purpose to harass another:

  • Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
  • Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
  • Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person."

N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 (2001).

Under New Jersey law, an assailant commits cyber-harassment if:

"While making a communication in an online capacity via any electronic device or through a social networking site and with the purpose to harass another, the person:

  • Threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person;
  • Knowingly sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person with the intent to emotionally harm a reasonable person or place a reasonable person in fear of physical or emotional harm to his person; or
  • Threatens to commit any crime against the person or the person's property."

N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-4.1 (2013).

  1. Necessary Restraint: A judge believes that the order is necessary to prevent further acts of domestic violence against you.

Because text messages are stored electronically on cell phones, this can present challenges when entering them into evidence. You should consult an experienced New Jersey attorney well versed in litigating restraining orders to ensure that you present the best possible case to the court.

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Can you get a restraining order for emotional or psychological abuse?

To obtain a domestic violence restraining order in New Jersey, you must show:

  • You have a qualifying domestic relationship. These relationships include a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, having a child together, or sharing a household.
  • The defendant committed a predicate act of domestic violence against you. Under New Jersey law, domestic violence acts also include harassment, cyber harassment, terroristic threats, and stalking.
  • The order is necessary to prevent the defendant from committing future acts of domestic violence against you.

New Jersey law does not explicitly list psychological abuse as an act of domestic violence. However, if the behavior rises to harassment, cyber harassment, stalking, or terroristic threats, you may be able to obtain a restraining order.

  1. Harassment

New Jersey law defines harassment as someone who, with the purpose to harass another:

  • "Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
  • Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
  • Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person."

N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 (2001).

  1. Cyber Harassment

Under New Jersey law, an assailant commits cyber-harassment if:

"While making a communication in an online capacity via any electronic device or through a social networking site and with the purpose to harass another, the person:

  • Threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person;
  • Knowingly sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person with the intent to emotionally harm a reasonable person or place a reasonable person in fear of physical or emotional harm to his person; or
  • Threatens to commit any crime against the person or the person's property."

N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-4.1 (2013).

  1. Terroristic Threats

New Jersey law defines terroristic threats in differing degrees:

  • "A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he threatens to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another or to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience.
  • A violation of this subsection is a crime of the second degree if it occurs during a declared period of national, state, or county emergency. The actor shall be strictly liable upon proof that the crime occurred, in fact, during a declared period of national, state, or county emergency. It shall not be a defense that the actor did not know that there was a declared period of emergency at the time the crime occurred.
  • A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he threatens to kill another with the purpose to put him in imminent fear of death under circumstances reasonably causing the victim to believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood that it will be carried out."

N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-3 (2002).

  1. Stalking

An individual engages in stalking under New Jersey law if they "purposefully or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his safety or the safety of a third person or suffer other emotional distress." N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-10 (2013).

If you aren't sure if you are eligible for a restraining order under New Jersey law, you should consult an attorney experienced in restraining order litigation.

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Can you get a restraining order for online harassment?

You may obtain a New Jersey restraining order for harassment if:

  • You can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence against you;
  • You have a qualifying domestic relationship, which includes a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, sharing a household, or having one or more children together;
  • The restraining order is necessary to prevent future acts of domestic violence against you.

Under New Jersey law, harassment and cyber harassment are considered domestic violence offenses for those in a qualifying domestic relationship.

1. Harassment

New Jersey law defines harassment as someone who, "with the purpose to harass another:

  • Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
  • Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
  • Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person."

N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 (2001).

  1. Cyber Harassment:

Under New Jersey law, an assailant commits cyber-harassment if:

"While making a communication in an online capacity via any electronic device or through a social networking site and with the purpose to harass another, the person:

  • Threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person;
  • Knowingly sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person with the intent to emotionally harm a reasonable person or place a reasonable person in fear of physical or emotional harm to his person; or
  • Threatens to commit any crime against the person or the person's property."

N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-4.1 (2013).

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Can you get a restraining order for verbal abuse?

To obtain a final restraining order in New Jersey, you'll need to show that:

  • You have a qualifying domestic relationship. These relationships include a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, share the same household, or have one or more children together.
  • There was a predicate act of domestic violence. Under New Jersey law, domestic violence offenses include assault, stalking, harassment, terroristic threats, criminal trespass, and cyber-harassment.
  • The restraining order is necessary to prevent future acts of domestic violence.

While New Jersey laws regarding domestic violence don't explicitly mention verbal abuse, if the abuse rises to harassment, you may be able to obtain a restraining order. New Jersey law defines harassment as someone who, "with the purpose to harass another:

  • Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
  • Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
  • Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person."

N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 (2001).

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Can you get a restraining order for slander?

You probably cannot get a restraining order for slander in New Jersey. To obtain a restraining order, you need to show:

  • A qualifying domestic relationship, including a current or former marriage, a dating relationship, a shared household, or a shared child;
  • A predicate act of domestic violence, like assault, harassment, or stalking; and
  • And a need for the restraints on the defendant to prevent a future act of domestic violence.

Under New Jersey law, defamation is a deliberate or negligent, substantially false statement made to a third-party. If someone makes the statement verbally, it may be considered slander. However, slander is not considered an act of domestic violence under New Jersey law. Therefore, it doesn't meet the requirement of a "predicate act of domestic violence" needed to obtain a restraining order in New Jersey.

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Can you get a restraining order against you without cause?

There are multiple steps to obtaining a restraining order in New Jersey. First, the plaintiff will apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO). The court will not notify the defendant of the hearing in advance and only hears evidence and testimony from the plaintiff. The bar to obtain a TRO is pretty low. If the judge believes that the plaintiff is credible, there may be a predicate act of domestic violence, and the TRO may be necessary to protect the life, health, or well-being of the plaintiff, the judge will issue the order.

Once the court enters the TRO, the police will serve the defendant with the TRO and a date for a final restraining order hearing (FRO). The hearing will typically occur within ten days of the entry of the order. At the hearing, the standard is much higher. The plaintiff will need to show by a preponderance of the evidence that:

  • There is a qualifying domestic relationship between the parties. A qualifying relationship includes a current or former marriage, dating relationship, a shared household, or sharing one or more children.
  • There was a predicate act of domestic violence. Domestic violence offenses include, among other offenses, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal restraint, terroristic threats, criminal sexual contact, criminal trespass, false imprisonment, harassment, stalking, homicide.
  • The restraints are needed to prevent future acts of domestic violence against the plaintiff.

At the hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to testify and present witnesses and evidence. Evidence the parties present in court must comply with the New Jersey Rules of Evidence and the New Jersey court rules.

If the court enters a final restraining order, it will remain in place unless lifted by court order. The final order may prevent you from contacting the defendant, it may remove you from your home, and it may order you to pay child or spousal support.

After entry of the order, the police will photograph and fingerprint the defendant and enter the defendant's information in the New Jersey Domestic Violence Central Database. If the defendant violates the protection order, it is a criminal offense punishable by up to 18 months in jail.

If you are facing a restraining order hearing, it's best to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney well versed in restraining order litigation. Defending a final restraining order is not something you should attempt to do on your own. The consequences of a final restraining order on your record can be severe. An attorney can help you prevent the best defense possible to avoid entry of a restraining order.

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What are "Civil Restraints"? Are "Civil Restraints" better than a restraining order?

A "civil restraints" agreement is an alternative to a formal restraining order. The parties enter into an agreement that parties won't harm, harass, or bother each other. While on its face, it may resemble a restraining order, a civil restraints agreement doesn't carry the same force of law in New Jersey.

If a court enters a final restraining order in New Jersey, a violation of that order is a criminal offense. Any allegation of a violation of that agreement results in an automatic arrest. If one party violates a civil restraints agreement, the other party must file a motion with the court, wait for a court date, explain to a judge what happened, and ask the judge to enforce the agreement. Any penalty a judge enters for violating the civil restraints agreement is entirely at the court's discretion.

A civil restraints agreement is also only available for parties that already have a matter pending before the family court, such as a child custody case. If you're considering a civil restraints agreement as an alternative to a restraining order, consult an attorney to ensure that it's the right choice for your situation.

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Do restraining orders go both ways?

Unless a court grants both parties protective orders, or cross restraints, a restraining order usually only protects one party from being contacted by the other. However, if you have a restraining order against someone, it's not good to contact the defendant. You may jeopardize the enforceability of your restraining order. If you need to contact the defendant to facilitate child visitation or other urgent communication, it's best to use a trusted third party or your attorney.

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Who can put a restraining order on someone?

Restraining orders in New Jersey work to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. You can apply for a restraining order against your assailant if you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.

  1. Domestic Violence Protection Order

For a domestic violence protection order, you must have a qualifying domestic relationship with the defendant. Qualifying relationships include:

  • A current or former marriage;
  • A dating relationship;
  • Sharing a household;
  • Sharing one or more children.

The defendant must be 18 or older or an emancipated minor. Emancipated means that the minor was married, served in the military, has a child, or a court or administrative agency declared the minor emancipated.

  1. Sexual Assault Protection Order

You can obtain a sexual assault protection order against your assailant if you are the victim of non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, lewdness, or an attempt to do so.

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Who can get a restraining order against you?

Only someone in a qualified domestic relationship with you can obtain a restraining order against you. Qualified relationships include:

  • Your current or former spouse;
  • Someone you are in a dating relationship with;
  • Someone you share a household with;
  • Someone with whom you have one or more children.

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Can your neighbor get a restraining order against you?

Domestic violence restraining orders are to protect victims of domestic violence from their assailants. Your neighbor can only obtain a domestic violence restraining order against you if they are a current or former spouse, someone you're in a dating relationship with, or someone with whom you share a child.

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Can your roommate get a restraining order against you?

Yes, your roommate can get a restraining order against you because you share the same household. Your roommate would also need to show that you committed a predicate act of domestic violence against them. Domestic violence offenses include, among other offenses:

  • Burglary
  • Criminal mischief
  • Criminal restraint
  • Terroristic threats
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Criminal trespass
  • False imprisonment
  • Harassment
  • Cyber-harassment
  • Stalking
  • Homicide

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Can your coworker get a restraining order against you?

Your coworker can only get a domestic violence restraining order against you if:

  • You have a qualified domestic relationship. Qualified relationships include a shared household, a dating relationship, a former or current spouse, and sharing one or more children.
  • There was a predicate act of domestic violence, including assault, harassment, or stalking, among other offenses.
  • The order is necessary to prevent further acts of domestic violence against your coworker.

If you don't have one of these relationships with your coworker, they cannot obtain a restraining order against you.

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How do restraining orders work in the workplace?

If you date, marry, or share a household or child with a coworker, it's conceivable that one of you could be subject to a domestic violence restraining order while sharing a workspace. If you work with another party to a domestic violence restraining order, things are tricky. If you are the plaintiff, you should immediately provide your employer or your employer's human resources department with a copy of the temporary or final restraining order. If the terms of the order account for your shared office, both parties may need to discuss the restraining order's details and how it will work as a practical matter.

If you are the defendant, you should be sure to let the judge know that you share a workplace at the final restraining order (FRO) hearing. If you fail to show up, the judge may enter a final order that will bar you from the plaintiff's home or workplace, effectively barring you from going to work. Violating a final restraining order is a criminal offense that could lead to up to 18 months in jail. If this is your situation, it's good to hire an attorney to represent you at the FRO hearing to protect your job. The consequences of a FRO can be long-lasting and severe.

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Can a restraining order stop you from going to a funeral?

A restraining order can prevent you from going to a funeral, depending on the terms of the order. Many restraining orders a specific distance that the defendant must maintain from the plaintiff but may also detail that the defendant cannot contact or harass the plaintiff.

Even if you think you can maintain the specified distance from the plaintiff at a funeral, it may not work as a practical matter. Violating a restraining order is civil contempt of court. This violation is a criminal offense that could subject you to 18 months in jail. Even if you "accidentally" violate the distance limitations in a restraining order, you could face a criminal charge.

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How do restraining orders work with social media sites like Facebook?

Restraining orders will often indicate that the defendant may not contact the plaintiff in any way, whether in person, by phone, or via electronic communications like texting or social media. In several states, courts have ruled that "poking," tagging, or posting about another party to a restraining order can be harassment and a violation of a restraining order. Violating a restraining order is a criminal offense.

In a 2014 New Jersey case, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court upheld a rule barring a mother from posting about her ex-husband and children. See State of NJ v. H.L.M., No. A-0 (App. Div. May 13, 2014) (slip op.). The restriction stemmed from a 2011 incident when the woman attempted to flee with her children to Canada. She was caught, arrested, and pled guilty to interference with custody. As a condition for bail, the court ordered her to refrain from posting about her ex-husband and kids online. Id.

In other words, if a restraining order tells a defendant to refrain from contact, the defendant should delete and block the plaintiff from social media and refrain from discussing the plaintiff online. If the defendant continues to do so, it could be considered harassment or cyber-harassment, another domestic violence offense under New Jersey law. It is the legal obligation of the defendant to a restraining order to refrain from contacting the plaintiff in any manner, even a "poke" on Facebook.

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What happens if you get served with a restraining order after being acquitted of domestic violence?

There are multiple steps to obtaining a restraining order in New Jersey. First, the plaintiff will apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO). The court won't notify the defendant of the hearing in advance and will only hear testimony from the plaintiff. There is a pretty low bar to obtain a TRO. If the judge believes the plaintiff is credible; there was a predicate act of domestic violence; and the TRO may be necessary to protect the life, health, or well-being of the plaintiff, the judge will issue the order. 

After the court enters the TRO, the police will serve the defendant with a date for the final restraining order hearing (FRO). See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a). At the hearing, the standard is much higher. The plaintiff will need to show by a preponderance of the evidence that:

  • There is a qualifying domestic relationship between the parties. A qualifying relationship includes a current or former marriage, dating relationship, a shared household, or sharing one or more children.
  • There was a predicate act of domestic violence. Domestic violence offenses include, among other crimes, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal restraint, terroristic threats, criminal sexual contact, criminal trespass, false imprisonment, harassment, stalking, homicide.
  • The restraints are needed to prevent future acts of domestic violence against the plaintiff.

If a court previously acquitted the defendant of the act of domestic violence that the plaintiff is using to obtain the FRO, the judge should deny the restraining order. If the plaintiff alleges a new act of domestic violence as the basis of the TRO and FRO, the judge will need to consider all of the evidence. The plaintiff will still need to show that the new act of domestic violence occurred by a preponderance of the evidence.

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What happens when a judge denies a restraining order?

If a judge denies a request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) or final restraining order (FRO), you may still have recourse through the criminal justice system. A judge won't issue a TRO or FRO if you don't have the requisite qualifying domestic relationship. A qualifying relationship includes:

  • A current or former marriage,
  • A dating relationship,
  • A shared household, or
  • Sharing one or more children.

If you are the victim of violence without a domestic relationship, you may still be able to involve the criminal justice system.

If a municipal judge denies your TRO, you can apply again in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-28(f),(i). If a judge denies a final restraining order, you can file a motion for reconsideration. You can also file an appeal within a short period. However, during the appeal, the court will only look at the evidence presented in the initial FRO hearing to determine whether the judge made a mistake of law. You cannot submit additional evidence.

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Why should you fight or contest a restraining order?

Restraining orders can have strict consequences in New Jersey. The court may remove you from the home you share with the plaintiff and prevent you from contacting the plaintiff or any children you share. You could lose custody of your children, and the court could order you to pay spousal and child support. The court could also order you to continue paying the rent or mortgage in a home you don't occupy. Additionally, the court will fine you $500 and order you be fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a domestic violence registry.

After a restraining order is in place, New Jersey law prohibits you from owning or possessing firearms. If you violate a restraining order, it is a criminal offense and considered criminal contempt of a court order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. Any allegation of violating a restraining order mandates an arrest. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-31. The violation can be inadvertent or be as small as a text or email to the victim. A second violation will result in a mandatory 30 days in jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30. If you are facing a restraining order hearing, it's essential to contact an experienced New Jersey criminal attorney as soon as possible.

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What's the difference between restraining orders and protective orders?

A protective order is another name for a restraining order. New Jersey law allows restraining orders as part of the 1982 Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. A restraining order is a court-ordered document that can prohibit one person from contacting or coming within a certain distance of someone else for a set period.

In some cases, a court may issue a protective order in the context of criminal domestic violence cases, issuing an order enjoining the defendant from contacting or going near the victim until the next hearing in the domestic violence case. The victim can also apply for a temporary or final restraining order in conjunction with the criminal domestic violence court case.

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What's the difference between restraining orders and non-molestation orders?

There is no order under New Jersey law called a "non-molestation order," however, it is another name for a restraining order that prevents a defendant from contacting, harassing, intimidating, or threatening violence against a plaintiff or their children.

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What's the difference between restraining orders and no-contact orders?

A no-contact order is related to criminal charges, while a restraining order is a civil proceeding in family court. If a defendant is accused of a violent crime, particularly when the allegations involve domestic violence or sexual assault, a no-contact order may be a bail condition. Whether the court issues a no-contact is order is at the discretion of the judge, but a victim can request that the court lift the order. A defendant violating a no-contact order can be held in contempt of court and forfeit their bail.

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What's the difference between restraining orders and peace bonds?

A peace bond is mainly used in Canada rather than the U.S., although the objective is similar to a New Jersey restraining order. A Canadian court may issue a peace bond if there's reason to believe that a criminal defendant might commit a criminal offense harming a spouse, common-law partner, child, or another person, or if the defendant intends to damage property. The defendant must agree to the terms of the peace bond as a condition of bail, which often includes refraining from contacting the applicant. The conditions of a peace order may be in place for up to a year.

A New Jersey restraining order is a court-ordered document that can prohibit one person from contacting or coming within a certain distance of someone else for a set period. The court will issue a restraining order if there is a domestic or family relationship between the parties, there was a predicate act of domestic violence, and the restraining order is necessary for the plaintiff's safety. Temporary restraining orders are typically only in place until a final restraining order hearing or about ten days. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a). In New Jersey, a final restraining order is permanent unless one of the parties asks the court to modify or lift the order.

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How do restraining orders work with spousal support and alimony?

Both temporary and final restraining orders in New Jersey may include provisions for spousal and child support. Under New Jersey law, the court may include:

  • An order granting the plaintiff the sole possession of the residence or household, regardless of whether the defendant is the sole owner, or the parties own it jointly;
  • An order regarding parenting time;
  • An order requiring the defendant to pay the plaintiff for losses suffered as a result of the domestic violence, including lost wages, child or spousal support, out-of-pocket losses for injuries or damage to property, costs of counseling, reasonable attorney's fees, court costs, and compensation for pain and suffering.

See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-29(13)(b) (2016).

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How do restraining orders work with third-party contact?

When a court issues a restraining order in New Jersey, the defendant may not contact the plaintiff unless the order provides explicitly for contact regarding some issues, like child visitation or other matters. However, in a domestic violence situation, the plaintiff may not want to risk any contact with the defendant, even by email or text, particularly if the defendant has a history of harassing the plaintiff by phone or email.

In these cases, the restraining order can provide contact only through a third party. The plaintiff can choose their attorney or a friend or family member as the party the defendant must contact to pass on or request any information from the plaintiff. It's important to remember that any violation of restraining order, even an email or text, is criminal contempt of a court order and a criminal offense. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. Any allegation of violating a restraining order requires an arrest. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-31. A second violation results in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.

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Can I include another person on my restraining order in New Jersey?

To qualify for a restraining order in New Jersey, the parties must have a qualifying domestic relationship. A qualifying relationship includes:

  • A current or former marriage;
  • A dating relationship;
  • Members of the same household; or
  • The parties have one or more children together.

In cases where the parties have children together, you may ask the court to include the children on the restraining order. Similarly, if the parties live with others in the same household, the plaintiff can request that the court include other household members as protected people on the restraining order.

The plaintiff must show that these children or additional family members are at risk of abuse if they are not included as "protected persons" under the restraining order. If granted, these restrictions are permanent. Even if the parties' children reach 18 and move out, they will still be included in the restraining order unless they, or one of the parties to the order, move the court to amend or lift the order.

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Who is a protected person under a restraining order?

Under a restraining order, a "protected person" is anyone named in the order as someone the defendant may not contact.

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What evidence can you use in a New Jersey restraining order trial?

To grant a final restraining order (FRO), the court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that:

  1. The parties have a qualified domestic relationship. A qualified domestic relationship includes a current or former marriage or dating relationship. Members of the same household and parties who have one or more children together are also in a qualified domestic relationship.
  2. The defendant committed an act of violence. Acts of domestic violence include assault, harassment, terroristic threats, criminal restraint, stalking, sexual assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal trespass, robbery, criminal coercion, cyber harassment, contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime or "disorderly persons offense," or any other crime that involves the risk of death or serious bodily injury.
  3. There is an immediate need for a restraining order to prevent further instances of domestic violence.

At the hearing for the FRO, both sides will have the chance to tell their story and present evidence to the court. However, the evidence presented must follow the New Jersey rules of evidence and court procedures. As a result, it's good to retain an attorney to ensure you have the best chance of success at your hearing.

Under the rules of evidence, the evidence presented at the hearing must be relevant. Evidence is relevant if it helps prove or disprove any of the above three elements, including whether or not the predicate act of domestic violence occurred and whether a restraining order is needed. Some common types of evidence used in restraining order hearings include:

  • Eye-witness testimony
  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Social media posts
  • Photos and videos

Even if the parties know who they want to call as witnesses and what evidence they wish to present, that is only the first step. The parties must also understand how the court can admit the evidence. Just because testimony or evidence is relevant does not mean that it is admissible or that the court will hear it. Retaining an attorney well versed in restraining order litigation can be your best chance for success in a restraining order hearing.

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Can you get evicted because of a restraining order?

Under New Jersey law, a landlord can evict you for disorderly conduct. "If after given written Notice to Cease disorderly conduct, the tenant continues the disorderly conduct and that conduct destroys the peace and quiet of the other tenants living in the house or neighborhood, the landlord may file a suit for eviction." N.J.S.A. § 2A:18-61.1 (2013).

Aside from disorderly conduct, if a court enters a TRO, the police will remove you from any home you share with the plaintiff, even if you own it. As part of a FRO, the court can order that the plaintiff retain possession of the home and even that you continue to pay the rent or mortgage.

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​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

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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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