No matter who you are, being the recipient of a restraining order can be stressful, disruptive, and humiliating. You may feel confused and concerned as to the ramifications of the order, let alone how to contest it if it is unfair. If you live in Clifton, NJ, and have been served with a temporary restraining order (TRO), you'll be summoned to appear at the Passaic County Superior Court in Paterson, where a judge will decide whether to finalize the restraining order based on the evidence presented by this individual requesting it. Depending on the nature of the restraining order, you could be legally barred from contacting someone you love. It could affect your daily habits, your job, and even custody of your children.
The best way to navigate these troubled waters is with the help of an experienced restraining order defense attorney, someone who can make sure your side is heard and that your rights are protected. The Criminal Defense Team of the Lento Law Firm has extensive experience with restraining order cases throughout New Jersey, including Clifton. To schedule a consultation, call our offices at 888-535-3686.
Who Is Eligible to File a Restraining Order Against Me in Clifton, New Jersey?
In the state of New Jersey, restraining orders provide protection to someone from an abuser with whom they have (or had) a domestic relationship. Under NJ law, any of the following people could ask for a restraining order against you:
- Someone to whom you are (or were) married
- Someone you dated or are currently dating
- Someone you live with (or formerly lived with)
- Someone with whom you have had a child.
Note that you can't have a restraining order against you just because your spouse or partner asks for it. For a restraining order to be finalized, the person asking for the order must demonstrate that you have committed an act of domestic violence and/or sexual assault against them and/or they feel you are an imminent threat to their safety.
Understanding the Restraining Order Process in Clifton
By state law, the procedure to secure a restraining order is generally the same across New Jersey. The person requesting the order is the plaintiff, and the person being served the order is the defendant. In Clifton, the plaintiff initiates the process by applying for a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Superior Court in Paterson (or from the Clifton Municipal Court if emergency relief is needed after hours or on weekends). If granted, the TRO is effective immediately, and the court then schedules a hearing to determine whether to issue a final restraining order (FRO). This hearing will be held at:
Passaic County Courthouse
77 Hamilton Street
Paterson, New Jersey 07505
Questions regarding restraining orders may be directed to:
Passaic County Superior Court Family Part
973 653 2910, Ext. 24390
Temporary Restraining Orders
When someone first applies for a restraining order against you, the judge will preside over an ex parte hearing to decide whether a temporary order should be issued. An ex parte hearing involves only one party (i.e., the plaintiff, meaning you are not summoned to appear and do not have to be present for the order to be issued). Based on the plaintiff's account, the judge will issue a TRO if they deem it necessary to safeguard the life, health, or well-being of the plaintiff. The court will also schedule a hearing to decide on the issuance of a final restraining order. The TRO stays in effect until the FRO hearing, typically around ten days.
After the TRO is issued, law enforcement will serve you with the order and inform you of the date for the FRO hearing. If you possess firearms, the police might seize them until the final hearing. If you share a residence with the complainant, you may be ordered to vacate during the TRO, even if your name is on the lease or you bear the rent and mortgage costs. The TRO might also grant temporary custody to your co-parent and require you to provide financial support.
Final Restraining Orders
The final restraining order hearing will be presided over by a judge in the Passaic County Superior Court, Family Part. Both the plaintiff and you can present your respective cases, evidence, and witnesses. The hearing will be more comprehensive than the TRO hearing, and the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff to show that you pose a threat to them. To establish a FRO for domestic violence, the court must determine:
- You and the complainant share a qualified domestic relationship.
- You perpetrated an act of domestic violence against the plaintiff (or in some cases, your child). Domestic violence can include acts such as assault, harassment, threats, stalking, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, false imprisonment, lewdness, criminal trespass, robbery, criminal coercion, online harassment, contempt of a domestic violence order, or any other crime that poses a risk of death or serious bodily injury.
- Restraints are required to prevent future domestic violence.
The final restraining order issued by the judge will likely be more comprehensive than the TRO. It may include provisions such as:
- Preventing you from harassing or contacting the complainant
- Granting temporary custody and financial support for children
- Assigning financial responsibility for rent, a mortgage, insurance, or other financial obligations
- Protecting the plaintiff from violence and harassment
- Prohibiting you from owning, purchasing, or possessing firearms
- Mandating that you attend therapy, counseling, or anger management courses.
If a FRO is issued, the police will take your fingerprints and photograph for the state domestic violence database, and you will be liable for a $500 fine. Also, bear in mind that in New Jersey, a final restraining order in New Jersey lasts indefinitely (possibly for life). The only way an FRO is lifted is if the Passaic County Superior Court later vacates the FRO for good cause, and typically only at the request of the plaintiff who requested the order.
Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order
Violating a restraining order in New Jersey is a criminal offense and is tantamount to contempt of court. You may face fines and/or jail time if you are charged with a violation, and a second violation comes with a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail. A violation could also influence the judge's decision to rescind the FRO in the future.
Implications of a Restraining Order in Clifton, NJ
Restraining orders in New Jersey carry potentially long-term serious repercussions for the defendant. Once a TRO becomes a FRO, it remains in effect indefinitely and will typically only be lifted if the plaintiff requests it. If a court deems a FRO necessary, it could potentially influence decisions on child custody, your ability to remain in shared spaces with the other party, and the amount of support you are required to provide. For these reasons, it's in your best interests to contest a temporary restraining order at the hearing before the judge finalizes it.
The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has a long track record of success helping defendants contest unfair restraining orders in Clifton, NJ, and other parts of the state. If you have been served a restraining order, you owe it to yourself to protect your rights. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or fill out our online form.