Violence among families and intimate partners is a chronic issue in the United States. In New Jersey, we take domestic violence seriously. As a result, in 1982, New Jersey lawmakers passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in 1982. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. Under the Act, victims of domestic or intimate partner violence can apply for court-ordered protection from their abusers. A restraining order issued under the Act can prevent an alleged abuser from approaching the petitioner for a short period of time or, in some cases, permanently.
Who Can Obtain a Restraining Order in Somerville, New Jersey?
Under New Jersey's restraining order law, abuse victims can obtain temporary (TRO) or final restraining orders (FRO). Both types of orders may protect the petitioner from an abuser that shares a family or intimate relationship with them. To qualify for a restraining order, the petitioner and defendant must be current or former spouses or intimate partners, family members, share a household, or share children. Restraining orders aren't available for co-workers, strangers, classmates, neighbors, or others without a family relationship.
Where Do Restraining Order Hearings Happen in the Somerset County Seat?
In Somerset County, the county seat is in Somerville, New Jersey, which is where the restraining order hearings happen. FRO hearings will occur in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Somerset County Superior Court. The courthouse is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
20 North Bridge Street
Somerville, NJ 08876
How Do Restraining Orders Work in Somerville?
In the Somerset County seat of Somerville , New Jersey, if someone applies for a restraining order against you, they'll have to go through an application process that involves at least two hearings for a temporary restraining order and then a final restraining order. The temporary order only remains in place for about ten days.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
When someone requests a restraining order against you, the first hearing will be ex parte, meaning only the petitioner will be present, and you don't have the right to appear or even receive notice about the hearing in advance. The judge will decide whether to issue the TRO based only on information from the petitioner. If the judge believes that a TRO is necessary to protect the petitioner or their children, they may issue the temporary order. At the same time, the court will set a hearing for the final protective order in about ten days. The TRO only remains in place until the hearing for a final restraining order. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
After entering a TRO, the court will then serve you with a copy of the order and notice of the hearing date for deciding the final restraining order. When the police serve you, they may also confiscate all your firearms. The police may also remove you from your home if you live with the petitioner. This removal can happen even if you own the home or have your name on the lease.
2. Final Restraining Orders
The police will serve you with notice of the final hearing. At the hearing, you'll have the chance to tell your story to the judge and present evidence and witnesses. The petitioner will have the burden to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. However, this is a formal court proceeding, and you should take this seriously. You need an experienced lawyer to help you successfully navigate the restraining order hearing.
Before granting a FRO, the court must find:
- That the parties have a “qualified domestic relationship.” Qualified relationships include family members such as a parent and child or siblings, members of the same household, current or former intimate partners or spouses, or couples who share children.
- The defendant “committed an act of domestic violence.” Many crimes in New Jersey fall under the umbrella of domestic violence, including assault, harassment, threats, stalking, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, false imprisonment, 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 involving a risk of serious bodily injury.
- A restraining order is necessary to prevent future domestic violence.
When the judge enters the FRO after the hearing, it will contain far more detail than the original TRO. Under New Jersey law, the FRO may contain provisions that will:
- Keep you from contacting or harassing the petitioner,
- Award for temporary custody and financial support for your children,
- Award financial support for financial obligations like rent, a mortgage, or loan payments,
- Protect the petitioner from violence,
- Keep you from owning or possessing firearms,
- Order you to attend counseling or therapy.
The court will also order you to pay a $500 fine, and the police will fingerprint and photograph you for the New Jersey Domestic Violence Database. The final restraining order will remain in place permanently (for life) unless one of the parties asks the court to lift or modify the order later and the Somerset County Superior Court agrees that vacating the FRO is appropriate to the circumstances at that later point in time.
What Happens if I Violate a Restraining Order in Somerville?
It's not a good idea to violate a restraining order in the Somerset County seat or anywhere in the state. Under New Jersey law, violating a restraining order is criminal contempt of a court order and a criminal offense. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. If a court convicts you of violating a restraining order, you'll have a criminal record. The violation can also affect your ability to regain custody or visitation of your children and prevent a judge from lifting the order in the future. If you violate your restraining order for 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
Facing a restraining order hearing alone is a scary proposition, and it can have a lasting effect on your life. You need an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many Somerset County and Somerville families with the restraining process over the years, and he can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.