In 1982, the state of New Jersey passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, conceived to protect victims of domestic violence. The law includes a provision that permits victims to obtain a restraining order, which restricts the contact an alleged offender can have with a victim.
Thousands of temporary and final restraining orders are issued in Ocean County courts every year. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a restraining order, its issuance will undoubtedly have a profound effect on your life. At worst, defendants have found themselves unable to return to their own homes and have been kept from seeing their children.
Types of Restraining Orders in New Jersey
There are two types of restraining orders in New Jersey: Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) and Final Restraining Orders (FROs). A judge ultimately determines the issuance of both.
If this is your first rodeo, there's a high likelihood that you've been issued a TRO. This means you've been served with an order and the date of the final hearing, which should be held sometime within the next few weeks. It's recommended that you cooperate when law enforcement eventually seizes your firearms.
If you live with the person who sought the TRO, you won't be able to return to your home while the order is in effect. It's important to note that even though you may own the residence or if you were there first, with a TRO in effect, you'd still be required to move out.
TROs last until a judge issues a FRO, removes it, or issues a further court order.
FROs are a permanent replacement for TROs. In New Jersey, there is no time limit on FROs. Before these orders are implemented, what's known as a “final hearing” will be held at the Ocean County Superior Court. Both you and your ex will be given an opportunity to provide testimony and evidence to consider in the decision to issue (or refute issuing) a FRO.
The petitioner for the restraining order must prove their allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. When proven, the court may issue a FRO if the judge finds:
- The parties have a qualified domestic relationship: A domestic relationship includes couples who are currently married or were once married, a dating relationship, members of the same household, or parties with one or more children together.
- The defendant committed an act of violence: In New Jersey, many crimes against a family member are considered domestic violence. Some of these crimes include assault, harassment, terroristic threats, criminal restraint, stalking, sexual assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal trespass, robbery, criminal coercion, cyber harassment, contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime or “disorderly persons offense,” or any other crime that involves the risk of death or serious bodily injury.
- There is an urgent need for a restraining order to prevent further instances of domestic violence against the plaintiff or petitioner.
Because final restraining orders are permanent, they don't expire. A FRO will remain in place until one of the parties asks the court to modify or remove the restraining order.
Ocean County courts have a great deal of discretion to create conditions for a restraining order. Typically, the FRO will prohibit the defendant from contacting or communicating with the petitioner, in person, or online.
Provisions of an Ocean County Restraining Order
Each restraining order is different but might include provisions such as:
- Modifying custody, visitation, and financial support of children or a spouse,
- Meeting already existing financial obligations like mortgages, car payments, or rent,
- Prohibiting the defendant from owning or possessing firearms or other weapons,
- Restitution to the plaintiff, and
- Counseling or therapy.
If a judge enters a final restraining order, the police will photograph and fingerprint the respondent to enter their information into the state domestic violence registry. The respondent will also face a $500 fine and can no longer own a firearm under New Jersey and federal law.
For sexual assault restraining orders, the order can prevent:
- Future acts of sexual violence,
- The defendant from contacting the plaintiff,
- Online or in-person harassment,
- The defendant from entering places where the plaintiff might be, such as work, school, or home.
Restraining Orders are Civil Violations
Once the court issues a FRO, the police will fingerprint and photograph the respondent and enter the information into a national database and New Jersey's Domestic Violence Central Registry. A final restraining order is a civil violation, so a FRO typically won't appear on a standard criminal background check. However, all restraining orders appear in the state's DV registry, which is available to the public and searchable. The DV registry is available to the public to help protect domestic violence victims and allow police and courts to enforce and facilitate restraining orders. No court must find you guilty of a crime to place you on this registry.
While a restraining order is a civil matter in New Jersey, violating a restraining order is a criminal offense. If the police know that you've violated a restraining order, they must arrest you. Violating a FRO for a second time results in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence.
To say that you should have a criminal defense attorney by your side during this hearing is an understatement. These hearings are decided by the strength of either side's arguments and evidence. An attorney can build a solid defense for you that can significantly turn the tide of this legal battle.
Violating a Restraining Order
If you're thinking about contacting your ex despite a TRO or FRO, it'd be in your best interest to reconsider. Violating a restraining order is a criminal offense in Ocean County. You'll be charged with criminal contempt charges that could potentially result in jail time and hefty fines.
Have You Been Issued a Restraining Order? Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
The threat of domestic violence is a serious matter that shouldn't be undermined. Due to the nature of these cases, however, much of what transpired is up for speculation. Essentially, it's your word against your ex's, and in a situation with such high stakes, it's imperative you have reliable legal counsel to defend you.
Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultatio