Violence in domestic relationships is a chronic problem across the U.S. and New Jersey. But lawmakers in our state take this issue seriously. In 1982, the New Jersey legislature passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. Under the Act, victims of domestic violence can petition the court for orders to protect themselves from their abusers. These restraining orders can legally protect a victim from a potential abuser by preventing them from contacting or coming within a certain distance of them temporarily or permanently.
When Are Restraining Orders Allowed in the Morris County Seat in New Jersey?
New Jersey's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act allows for two types of restraining orders, temporary restraining orders (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO). Both TROs and FROs provide protection from an abuser for those in family or domestic relationships. Restraining orders are available for family members, former or current intimate partners, or co-parents. They aren't available for co-workers, fellow students, neighbors, or strangers.
Where Do Restraining Order Hearings Happen in Morristown?
The county seat in Morris County is in Morristown, New Jersey, which is where restraining order hearings will happen. FRO hearings take place in the Family Division of the Morris County Courthouse. The courthouse is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Washington and Court Streets
Morristown, NJ 07963
How Do Restraining Orders Work in Morristown?
The process for obtaining a restraining order in the Morris County seat of Morristown is similar across the state of New Jersey. The petitioner must first petition the court for a temporary order. If the court issues a TRO, it will then schedule a full hearing for a final order.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
When someone applies for a restraining order, the court will first hear the petition in an ex parte hearing. An ex parte hearing means only one party is present, and the court won't notify you of this hearing ahead of time. The court will decide whether to issues the TRO based only on information from the petitioner.
If the judge believes that a TRO is necessary to protect the petitioner's life, health, or well-being, they may issue a TRO and set a hearing to decide the final protective order. The TRO will remain in place only until the hearing for a final restraining order, usually about ten days. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
After the court enters a TRO against you, the police will serve you the order along with notice of the final hearing date. If you own firearms, the police may also confiscate these until the court resolves the final hearing. If you live with the petitioner, the police may also remove you from the home even if you own the home or your name is on the lease. The TRO may also award custody of any children to the petitioner temporarily. To protect your rights during the final hearing, it's important to retain an experienced New Jersey lawyer as soon as possible.
2. Final Restraining Orders
While the TRO hearing was ex parte, you have the right to participate in the hearing and to tell your side of the story. The final hearing will be more expansive than the TRO hearing, and it is a formal court proceeding. Both parties will have the ability to present evidence and witness testimony to the court. However, because this hearing is a formal court proceeding, it can be challenging to navigate without an experienced restraining order lawyer representing you.
Before granting a FRO for domestic violence, the court must find:
- The parties have a qualified domestic relationship. A qualified relationship includes current or former partners, spouses, a dating relationship, family members, people who live together, or parties who share children.
- You committed an act of domestic violence. Domestic violence crimes in New Jersey include assault, harassment, threats, stalking, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, false imprisonment, lewdness, robbery, criminal coercion, online harassment, contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime or “disorderly persons offense,” or any other crime that involving a risk of serious bodily injury.
- A restraining order is needed to prevent future violence.
The FRO after the final hearing will be more extensive than the TRO. It can include provisions that:
- Prevent you from contacting or harassing the plaintiff or petitioner,
- Award temporary custody and financial support for your children,
- Award support for existing financial obligations like a mortgage, rent, insurance, car payments, or other loans.
- Protection the petitioner from further domestic violence,
- Preventing you from buying, possessing, or owning firearms, and
- Order you to attend therapy or counseling.
If the court enters a final restraining order, you'll also face a $500 fine, and the police will fingerprint and photograph you for the New Jersey Domestic Violence Database.
Additionally, a final restraining order lasts for life in New Jersey. The only exception to this is if the Morris County Superior Court were to vacate the FRO at a later time only upon a showing of good cause, which can be a difficult bar to meet for a defendant.
What Happens if I Violate a Restraining Order in the Morris County Seat?
It's never a good idea to willfully violate a court order. Violating a restraining order in Morristown, in Morris County, or anywhere for that matter, is criminal contempt of a court order, a criminal offense. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. Even calling, messaging, or texting the petitioner could be a violation of the FRO against you. So, it's essential that you understand and follow all the order's provisions against you to avoid an arrest or jail. If you violate the FRO a second time, it can result in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.
Hire an Experienced Restraining Order Attorney
If you've got a restraining order pending against you, you need an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer representing you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many Morris County and Morristown families through the restraining order process, and he can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.