Domestic violence in intimate relationships is a serious issue in New Jersey and across the United States. To tackle the problem, in 1982, the New Jersey legislature passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. See N.J.S.A §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. Under this Act, victims of domestic violence and certain other crimes can get restraining orders to protect themselves from potential future violence. A New Jersey restraining order can legally prohibit someone from contacting, harassing, or approaching a victim permanently or temporarily.
Who Can Get a Restraining Order in the Passaic County Seat in New Jersey?
Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, victims of domestic violence can get two types of restraining orders – temporary restraining orders (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO). Both temporary and final restraining orders allow protection from an abuser for people in an intimate or family relationship. Restraining orders aren't available for strangers, co-workers, neighbors, or other relationships without a qualifying domestic relationship. Qualifying relationships include a family member, former or current intimate partner, or co-parent.
Where Do Restraining Order Hearings Happen in Paterson?
In Passaic County, the county seat is in Paterson, New Jersey, which is where the restraining order hearings happen. FRO hearings will occur in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Passaic County Superior Court. The courthouse is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
77 Hamilton Street
Paterson, NY 07505
How Do Restraining Orders Work in Paterson?
The Passaic County seat is in Paterson, New Jersey, and the process for obtaining a restraining order in Paterson is similar across New Jersey. The petitioner will first ask a judge for a temporary order, which remains in place only until the court can hold a hearing to decide whether to grant a final order.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
To begin the restraining order process, the petitioner will need to apply at the courthouse. If someone applies for a restraining order against you, the court won't notify you in advance of the initial hearing. The hearing will happen ex parte, meaning only the petitioner is present. If the judge feels a restraining order is necessary based on the information from the plaintiff or petitioner, they will issue a temporary order (TRO). The court will only issue a TRO if they feel it is necessary to protect the petitioner's life, health, or well-being. The TRO will only remain in place until the final restraining order hearing in about ten days. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
After a court enters a TRO, the police will serve you with the order and the date for the final restraining order hearing. They may also collect all your firearms and keep them until the court resolves the final hearing. The TRO may also order you from a home you share with the petitioner and award the petitioner temporary custody of any children.
2. Final Restraining Orders
While you don't have the right to appear at the initial TRO hearing, you do have the right to attend and participate in the FRO hearing. Both parties have the chance to tell their story and present witnesses and evidence to the court. However, the FRO hearing is a formal court proceeding, and you need an attorney representing you to successfully navigate the rules of the court and the rules of evidence in the hearing.
During the hearing, the court will only issue a FRO if the petitioner proves their case by a preponderance of the evidence. The court must find:
- The parties have a qualifying domestic relationship, including family members, current or former spouses, current or former intimate partners, members of the same household, and couples who share children.
- The defendant committed an act of domestic violence. Fighting this can be an uphill battle if a court has already convicted you of domestic violence, including assault, harassment, threats, stalking, sexual assault, burglary, criminal mischief, false imprisonment, robbery, criminal coercion, cyber 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.
- The court feels a FRO is needed to prevent future domestic violence.
While some of these elements can feel stacked against you as the defendant, an attorney experienced in restraining order litigation can help.
Final restraining orders are typically more detailed than TROs. Under New Jersey law, they can contain provisions that:
- Provide financial support for rent, a mortgage, or other financial obligations,
- Prevent you from contacting or harassing the petitioner,
- Provide for temporary custody and financial support for any children,
- Preventing you from owning or possessing firearms,
- Order you to attend counseling or therapy, and
- Protect the petitioner from future violence.
The police will also place your fingerprints, photograph, and information in the New Jersey Domestic Violence Registry.
Additionally, a final restraining order lasts for life in New Jersey. The only exception to this is if the 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 Paterson?
It's never a good idea to intentionally violate a restraining order in Paterson or anywhere in the state. In New Jersey, violating a restraining order is a criminal offense and is criminal contempt of a court order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. While the restraining order is a civil matter, violating it can leave you with a criminal record. Violating an order a second time can result in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.
Hire an Experienced Restraining Order Attorney
You shouldn't face a restraining order hearing in New Jersey alone. You'll need an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer representing you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many Passaic County and Paterson families through restraining order litigation. He can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.