Federal law allows those seeking protection from someone to obtain a restraining order at no cost. Restraining orders are commonly referred to as protection orders. These are injunctions or orders made by a civil or criminal court to prevent acts such as threats, harassment or violence. They prohibit an individual from contacting, communicating or being close to one another.
New Jersey Law
A restraining order may be temporarily or permanently established. Sometimes a temporary ex parte restraining order is issued in an emergency if a judge deems it necessary for someone's well-being. Counties often have an “on-call” municipal court judge when a restraining order is needed after the court is closed. A request for a restraining order may be made regardless of whether there has been an arrest or if criminal charges are pending.
When a temporary restraining order (TRO) is issued there is typically a hearing conducted within 10 days. A permanent or final restraining order may be issued at the hearing once all parties are present and the evidence is presented. Final restraining orders do not have a termination date. If a party wishes to terminate an order they must file a request and the judge can consider ending it.
Filing a Complaint of Domestic Violence (2C:25-28)
A filing should be made in the jurisdiction where either party lives or where any alleged actions occurred. The petitioner's address may be removed from any paperwork for their protection. A person may file on behalf of someone else if the individual is “physically or mentally incapable.”
Emergency orders may prevent the alleged defendant from returning to a particular location or prohibit them from possessing a deadly weapon. If warranted, the judge may order search and seizure of a weapon.
Protection Orders Not Involving Domestic Violence (2C:14-14)
Other grounds for a protection order may include actions (or attempts) that involve “nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness.” Provisions have recently been added that pertain to stalking, harassment, and cyber-harassment. A parent or guardian may file on behalf of a minor or someone incapable of doing so.
Hearing Procedure (2C:25-29)
Hearings are generally held at the Superior Court. The alleged defendant is served with the complaint per local rules. The burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. Courts may consider any of the following:
- Any prior acts of domestic violence or restraining orders in other jurisdictions involving the parties
- Whether there is an immediate danger
- The financial situation of the parties
- What is in the best interests of any children (when applicable)
Orders may be granted with any of the following conditions:
- One party may have sole possession of a residence and/or property such as a vehicle or pet
- Child custody and parenting time (visitation) arrangements
- One party may be required to pay financial compensation for harm caused or required to pay a mortgage, rent, etc.
- The alleged defendant may be required to attend counseling or submit to a mental health evaluation
- Restricting the alleged defendant from certain homes, schools, workplaces, etc.
- Restricting the alleged defendant from making contact either directly or through other parties
The term contempt refers to violating a court order. This is generally charged as a fourth-degree offense when done intentionally. Fourth-degree offenses in New Jersey are punishable by up to 18 months of incarceration and a maximum of a $10,000 fine.
Legal Representation for Restraining Orders in Atlantic County
Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience in representing clients in restraining order hearings and those alleged to have violated an existing order. He will ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the office today for a consultation at (888) 535-3686