Violence among families is a serious issue, both in New Jersey and across the United States. In 1982, the New Jersey legislature attempted to tackle this issue by passing the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. This Act allows victims of intimate partner violence, family violence, and certain other crimes to obtain court orders to protect themselves from their abusers. A restraining order from the court can legally prohibit an abuser from contacting, approaching, or harassing a victim. While the law is a useful tool to protect victims, former partners can also use it as a weapon.
Who Can Get a Restraining Order in the Sussex County Seat in New Jersey?
The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act created two types of restraining orders – temporary (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO). While both types of orders can protect a victim from an abuser, temporary orders only remain in place for about ten days. Final restraining orders are permanent and typically remain in place until one of the parties asks the court to lift or modify the order.
Where Do Restraining Order Hearings Happen in Newton?
The county seat in Sussex County is in Newton, New Jersey, which is where restraining order hearings will happen in Sussex County. Hearings will take place in the Family Division of the Sussex County Superior Court. The county courthouse is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
43-47 High Street
Newton, NJ 07860
Who Can Get a Restraining Order in Newton?
Obtaining a restraining order follows the same process across the state of New Jersey. In Newton, the Sussex County Seat, the petitioner will need first to obtain a temporary order from the court, followed by a full hearing and a final order.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
If someone asks the court for a restraining order against you, they'll first have an ex parte hearing with a judge. Ex parte means that only the petitioner will be present, and the court will not notify you of the hearing. The judge will determine whether a TRO is necessary to protect the petitioner's life, health, or well-being based solely on information from the petitioner. If the court issues a TRO, it will only remain in place until the final hearing in about ten days. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
When the police serve you with the TRO, they may remove you from a home you share with the petitioner. They may also confiscate your firearms until the court resolves the final hearing. The TRO may also award temporary custody of your children to the petitioner.
2. Final Restraining Orders
At the final hearing, you'll have the chance to participate and tell your story. Both you and the petitioner can introduce witnesses and evidence to the court. However, the FRO hearing will be a formal court proceeding, and both parties must follow the court's rules and the rules of evidence.
Before issuing a FRO, the court must find that:
- The parties have a qualified domestic relationship. A “qualified domestic relationship” includes current or former partners, a dating relationship, family members, members of the same household, or parties with children together.
- You committed an act of domestic violence. In New Jersey, the list of domestic violence crimes is extensive. It includes assault, harassment, threats, stalking, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, false imprisonment, lewdness, criminal trespass, robbery, 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.
- The restraining order is needed to protect the petitioner from future domestic violence.
If the judge enters a FRO at the hearing, it will typically be more detailed than the FRO. Under New Jersey law, the FRO can contain a wide variety of provisions to protect the petitioner. The FRO may contain clauses that:
- Provide for temporary custody and financial support for any children,
- Prevent you from contacting or harassing the petitioner,
- Provide financial support for rent, a mortgage, or other financial obligations,
- Protection the petitioner from future violence,
- Preventing you from owning, buying, or possessing firearms,
- Order you to attend counseling or therapy.
The court will also order you to pay a $500 fine and include your photograph, fingerprints, and personal information in the New Jersey Domestic Violence Database. Final restraining orders are permanent and do not expire. The order will remain in place until one or both parties ask the court to lift or modify the FRO. This can be a difficult bar for a defendant to meet, and that is why a final restraining order can literally have a lifetime of consequences.
What Happens if I Violate a Restraining Order?
Violating a restraining order in New Jersey is criminal contempt of a court order, a criminal offense. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. If you violate a restraining order again, it can result in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30. You'll have a criminal record, are more likely to lose child custody or visitation, and it's unlikely the Sussex County Superior Court in Newton will lift the restraining order in the future. It's essential that you know and understand all the provisions of the restraining order against you. If you violate the provisions of the order even inadvertently, you could face arrest. Even a small thing like messaging someone on Facebook or sending a text message could violate the FRO.
Hire an Experienced Restraining Order Attorney
Having a restraining order pending against you is a serious matter, and it isn't something you should try to handle on your own. You need an experienced New Jersey lawyer by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping Sussex County and Newton families with restraining order litigation for years. He can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.