A temporary restraining order is a court order intended to keep individuals from having contact until a hearing is conducted where a permanent (final) order may be put in place. In Gloucester County, the Sheriff's Office is responsible for serving the defendant (recipient) with the order. When specified, they will execute a search warrant for weapons and seize them. They also may assist with the removal of a recipient's personal property from a location when needed or even remove the defendant from a shared home if necessary.
The Domestic Violence Act (2C:25-17)
New Jersey's Domestic Violence Act is a group of provisions that seek to protect those victimized by domestic violence. These are threats or acts of violence against members of a household involving someone who is a current or former dating partner. A victim may seek relief by filing for a restraining order through the Superior Court. During hours when the court is closed, local police can contact a judge regarding a temporary order.
Restraining orders may also provide relief for victims of “nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness.” Restraining orders impose a host of possible restrictions that are intended to maintain the safety of a victim.
Hearing Procedure (2C:25-29)
The courts conduct hearings for final restraining orders within 10 days, hearing evidence and testimony from both parties. 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:
- The parties have a qualified domestic relationship, which is generally a current or former intimate or household relationship.
- The defendant committed an act of domestic violence. Domestic violence includes offenses like assault, kidnapping, harassment, stalking, and any crime that involves the threat of death or serious injury.
- There's an immediate need for restraints to prevent further acts of domestic violence.
If the judge implements a final restraining order, the conditions may include:
- A party may be assigned possession of a residence and/or property such as an automobile or pets
- The judge may make decisions regarding minor children (when applicable) such as child custody and parenting time (visitation)
- A party may be ordered to pay monetary compensation for harm caused or required to pay the mortgage, rent, etc.
- The recipient may have to submit to a mental health evaluation or participate in counseling
- The recipient may be restricted from entering a residence, school, place of employment, and more
- The recipient may be restricted from contacting the petitioner either directly or through other parties
The hearing, witness testimony, and evidence presented by the parties must conform to the New Jersey court rules and the rules of evidence. Navigating this on your own can be difficult. If you are facing a restraining order hearing, you should consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Final Restraining Orders
A final restraining order is a permanent order and does not have an established end date. Any request for modification or termination of a protection order must be made to the court. Once a court enters a final restraining order, the defendant's photograph, fingerprints, and information go into the National Domestic Violence Registry, which is a public database. The recipient is generally prohibited from buying, possessing, or otherwise acquiring a firearm. For defendants who need to carry a firearm at work or those who have a security clearance, or those in the military or law enforcement, a restraining order can be harmful to their careers. That's why it's important to consult an experienced attorney before the final restraining order hearing.
Restraining Orders in Other States
In many cases, the plaintiff can enforce a New Jersey restraining order outside of the state. Under federal law, the restraining order has the full faith and credit of the court of another state if:
- A New Jersey court had jurisdiction over both the plaintiff and defendant when issuing the restraining order; and
- The court gave the defendant reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard at the hearing.
The plaintiff doesn't have to register the New Jersey restraining order to enforce it in another state. Similarly, New Jersey courts will enforce restraining orders from out-of-state. If a plaintiff moves to New Jersey with a restraining order, they can:
- Do nothing. New Jersey's courts and law enforcement will still enforce the out-of-state restraining order;
- Submit the out-of-state order to the Family Part, Chancery Division of the New Jersey Superior Court and ask the court to recognize the order as valid;
- Obtain a New Jersey restraining order.
To obtain a New Jersey order, the plaintiff will need to apply with the local court to register the out-of-state order. This application involves sending notice of the application and hearing to the defendant, whether in-state or out-of-state. Often the defendant will fail to appear, and the court will issue the New Jersey restraining order.
Violations of Orders
While a restraining order is a civil matter in New Jersey, violating a restraining order is criminal contempt of a court order, which is a criminal offense. Violations of restraining orders in Gloucester County are processed through the Family Court in Woodbury. Failure to adhere to the conditions of an order may result in a conviction for contempt of court, which is typically a fourth-degree offense. The maximum penalties that may be imposed include 18 months of incarceration and a fine of $10,000. If an individual is found to have violated the order for a second time, they may be subject to a minimum of 30 days in jail.
Legal Defense for Cases of Domestic Violence or Nonconsensual Sexual Contact
In today's litigious environment, members of law enforcement and prosecutors are often overzealous when allegations such as domestic abuse or sexual misconduct are made. These sometimes-overworked individuals may overlook the rights of the accused. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended these cases throughout New Jersey. For a personal consultation, contact the office at (888) 535-3686.