Protecting Your Mental Health Counseling License after a New Jersey Restraining order

In New Jersey, we take the problem of domestic violence seriously. Domestic violence harms families and our community. As a result, the New Jersey legislature passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991. Under this law, victims of domestic violence can apply for restraining orders through the courts to protect them from abusers. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35 (1991).

New Jersey courts can issue one of two types of domestic violence restraining orders, including temporary (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO). But if someone accuses you of domestic violence, whether through an application for a restraining order or criminal domestic violence charges, it can affect you personally and professionally. In New Jersey, a criminal conviction or a restraining order can prevent you from holding or renewing many professional licenses. That's why it's essential that you contact an experienced restraining order attorney as soon as possible.

Temporary Restraining Orders in New Jersey

When someone applies for a restraining order against you, they will first appear before a judge for a temporary restraining order (TRO). A TRO is a temporary order from the court preventing you from contacting or approaching the applicant. You won't receive notice of this hearing, and you don't have the right to attend. However, a TRO will typically only remain in place for about ten days until the judge holds a hearing for a final restraining order.

Final Restraining Orders in New Jersey

Before issuing a final restraining order (FRO) against you, the judge will hold a formal hearing with notice to the parties involved. You will have the right to attend this hearing, present evidence and witnesses, and cross-examine the applicant's witnesses. While a lawyer isn't required, it is a formal hearing, and hiring an experienced attorney is your best option for success.

The court will only issue an FRO against you if the judge finds:

  • There is a “qualifying relationship” between you and the applicant. Qualifying relationships include:
    • Current or former spouses
    • Current or former intimate or dating partners
    • Those with a child together
    • People living in the same household
  • You committed an act of domestic violence under New Jersey law. This can include a criminal conviction for domestic violence or an allegation in the application for the restraining order. Domestic violence includes crimes such as:
    • Assault
    • Sexual assault
    • Stalking
    • Kidnapping
  • A restraining order is needed urgently to prevent more acts of domestic violence against the applicant. Under New Jersey law, the court will consider the following factors:
    • The previous history of domestic violence between the plaintiff and defendant, including threats, harassment, and physical abuse
    • The existence of immediate danger to person or property
    • The financial circumstances of the plaintiff and defendant
    • The best interests of the victim and any child
    • In determining custody and parenting time, the protection of the victim's safety
    • The existence of a verifiable order of protection from another jurisdiction

N.J. Stat. § 2C:25-29a (2013). After issuing a FRO against you, the court will order the police to include your photo and information in New Jersey's domestic violence registry.

Becoming a Mental Health Counselor in New Jersey

Mental health counselors in New Jersey are typically Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). Counselors still in the supervised portion of their training are Licensed Associate Counselors (LACs). The Professional Counselors Examining Committee, a branch of the state Department of Law & Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs, handles licensing of counselors in New Jersey. To become an LPC or LAC, you'll need to meet many educational, supervision, and examination requirements.

  • Education: You must complete 60 semester hours of a master's degree in counseling from a regionally accredited program. The program must include at least 45 credit hours of graduate coursework in the following:
    • Counseling theory and practice
    • The helping relationship
    • Human growth and development and maladaptive behavior
    • Lifestyle and career development
    • Group dynamics, processes, counseling, and consulting
    • Appraisal of individuals
    • Social and cultural foundations
    • Research and evaluation
    • The counseling profession
  • Supervision: You must also complete 600 hours of internship experience during your graduate studies. Additionally, you will need 4,500 hours of supervision over three years. You can obtain 1,500 of these hours through an additional 30 semester hours in counseling. You must also have at least 50 hours of face-to-face training from an approved supervisor at the rate of one hour a week.
  • Examination: You will also need to pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) for Licensure and Certification administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

As part of the licensing process, you must complete a background check. The Criminal History Review Unit will conduct the check, which includes FBI and New Jersey State Police investigations. The renewal process will also include these reviews.

How a Restraining Order Can Affect Your Counseling License

A New Jersey restraining order is a civil order, not a criminal matter. As a result, you won't have a criminal conviction based solely on a restraining order against you in our state. However, because your background check includes an investigation by the New Jersey State Police, your restraining order will likely turn up as part of a review of the state's domestic violence registry. Moreover, as part of the LPC licensing and renewal process in New Jersey, your application may ask about arrests and allegations of domestic violence. The board regulating LPCs may decide to investigate to determine if you've violated your license requirements.

Some of the professional licenses most likely to be affected by a restraining order in New Jersey include those of medical and mental health professionals. If you are a professional counselor, the community and your clients hold you in a special position of trust. If you are a licensed professional counselor, a licensed clinical social worker, or other licensed mental health counselor, it's essential that you consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who is well versed in handling restraining orders in New Jersey and understands the potential consequences to your professional and personal life.

Hire an Experienced New Jersey Restraining Order Attorney

If you're a mental health counselor in New Jersey and receive notice of a restraining order application against you, you must act quickly. The consequences of an FRO can be long-lasting and affect your professional and personal lives. Experienced New Jersey restraining order attorney Joseph D. Lento, well versed in handling domestic violence matters, can help. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

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

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