Domestic violence is a serious issue in New Jersey and across the U.S. To tackle the problem, the New Jersey legislature passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in 1982. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. Under this law, victims of domestic violence and certain other crimes can obtain court orders to protect themselves from their abusers. A restraining order can legally prohibit one person from contacting or coming within a certain distance of someone else for a set period.
Who Can Obtain a Restraining Order in Newark, New Jersey?
New Jersey law provides for two types of restraining orders, both temporary restraining orders (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO). Both types of restraining orders can provide protection from an abuser for a family member, former or current intimate partner, or co-parent. However, TROs only remain in place for about ten days until the court can hold a final hearing. FROs can remain in place permanently until one of the parties to the order asks the court to modify or remove it.
Violating a restraining order, whether temporary or permanent, is a criminal offense and considered criminal contempt of a court order. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. If you violate a restraining order, you may face arrest and jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-31. A second violation can result in a mandatory 30-day sentence in jail. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30.
Where Do Restraining Order Hearings Happen in Newark?
The Essex County seat is in Newark, New Jersey, which is where restraining order hearings will happen. Restraining order hearings take place in the Family Division of the Essex County Superior Court in the Essex County Courthouse. The courthouse is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
50 West Market Street
Newark, NJ 07102
973-776-9300 ext. 57210
How Do Restraining Orders Work in Newark, Essex County?
The process for obtaining a restraining order is similar across the state of New Jersey. In the Essex County Seat of Newark, the petitioner will need first to obtain a temporary order, followed by a full hearing for a final order.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
When someone requests a restraining order against you, they may request that the court immediately issue an ex parte TRO. The court will not notify you or any defendant of an ex parte hearing – the hearing will take place with only the petitioner present. If the judge feels a TRO is necessary to protect the life, health, or well-being of the petitioner, they may issue the temporary order and set a hearing for the final protective order in about ten days. The TRO will remain in place only until the hearing for a final restraining order. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
If the court enters a TRO against you, the police will serve you with the order and the date of the final restraining order hearing, which is usually within ten days. The police may also confiscate all your firearms. If you live with the petitioner, the court will order you to leave while the TRO is in force, even if you own the home or have your name on the lease. You may also temporarily lose custody or visitation of any children you share with the petitioner.
2. Final Restraining Orders
You will receive notice of the final hearing and have the opportunity to participate. Both you and the petitioner can tell your story, present witnesses, and present evidence at the hearing. To grant a FRO for domestic violence, the court must find:
- Both parties have a qualified domestic relationship, including current or former partners, a dating relationship, family members, members of the same household, or parties with children together.
- You, the defendant, committed an act 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.
- The order is necessary to prevent future domestic violence.
If the judge enters a FRO after the final hearing, it will be more detailed than the FRO and may include provisions that:
- Prevent you from contacting or harassing the petitioner,
- Provide for temporary custody and financial support for any children,
- Provide financial support for rent, a mortgage, or other financial obligations,
- Protection the petitioner from violence,
- Preventing you from owning or possessing firearms,
- Order you to attend counseling or therapy.
You will also face a $500 fine, and the police will fingerprint and photograph you for the police database.
Additionally, a final restraining order lasts for life in New Jersey. The only exception to this is if the Essex 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?
Violating a restraining order in Essex County or anywhere for that matter is never a good idea. In New Jersey, violating a restraining order is criminal contempt of a court order, a criminal offense. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. Even texting someone, calling, or making a comment on Facebook or TikTok can be a violation of your restraining order, and you could face an arrest and jail as a result. Violating a restraining order for a second time can result in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30. Moreover, violating a restraining order can make it more likely that you'll lose child visitation or custody and make it far less likely that a New Jersey court will lift the FRO against you at any later point in time.
Hire an Experienced Restraining Order Attorney
If you're facing an upcoming restraining order hearing, you need an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping Essex County and Newark families through restraining order litigation for years, and he can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.