Domestic violence in intimate partner and family relationships is a chronic problem in the U.S. As a result, the New Jersey legislature passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in 1982. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. The law allows victims of domestic violence to get court-ordered restraining orders to protect themselves from future abuse. A restraining order can protect someone by prohibiting harassment or contact between the petitioner and the defendant for a set period or permanently.
What Happens When You're Served with a Restraining Order in Elizabeth, New Jersey?
Under New Jersey law, victims of domestic violence can obtain two types of restraining orders. Temporary restraining orders (TROs) are a temporary safety measure that remains in place until a final restraining order hearing. Final restraining orders (FROs) are a permanent protection option preventing an abuser from contacting or approaching a petitioner. Both TROs and FROs can also order financial support for a partner and temporary child custody and visitation matters. A FRO will remain in place until one of the parties asks the court to remove or modify the order.
If you violate a restraining order in Elizabeth, New Jersey, it is criminal contempt of a court order, which is a criminal matter. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. Violating a restraining order can result in your arrest and jail time. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-31. If you violate a restraining order a second time, it 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 Elizabeth?
The county seat in Union County is in Elizabeth City, New Jersey, which is where restraining order hearings will happen. FRO hearings will take place in the Family Division of the Union County Superior Court. The county courthouse is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
2 Broad Street
Elizabeth City, NJ 07207
How Do Restraining Orders Work in Elizabeth?
In the Union County Seat and across New Jersey, the process for a restraining order is similar. In Elizabeth, the plaintiff and petitioner will apply for a temporary restraining order before a full hearing for a final order.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
Before obtaining a restraining order, an applicant will need to see a judge for a court order. In some cases, they can request that the court immediately issue an ex parte TRO. An ex parte hearing takes place with only one party present, and the court won't notify you in advance. The judge may issue a TRO if they believe it's necessary to protect the petitioner's life, health, or well-being. If the judge issues a TRO, the court will serve you with the order along with the date for the final protective order in about ten days. The TRO stays 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).
When the police serve you with the TRO, they may also confiscate all your firearms. You may also have to leave your home under the TRO if you live with the petitioner, even if you own the home. You could also face loss of custody or visitation of any shared children under the TRO.
2. Final Restraining Orders
The hearing for the final restraining order will take place in about ten days after the court issues a TRO. Both you and the petitioner will have the chance to participate and tell your stories. It is a formal hearing before a judge, and both parties can present evidence and witnesses. However, a formal hearing can be challenging to navigate without an experienced attorney by your side.
Before granting a FRO, the court must find that:
- The parties have a qualified domestic relationship, which can include current or former spouses or partners, a dating relationship, family members, members of the same household, or parties who share children.
- You committed an act of domestic violence. Domestic violence can include threats, assault, harassment, stalking, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, criminal coercion, online harassment, contempt of a domestic violence order, or any other crime that involving a risk of serious bodily injury or death.
- Restraints are needed to prevent future acts of domestic violence.
If the judge decides to grant the FRO after the hearing, it will likely be more detailed than the TRO.
The order may also contain provisions that:
- Provide for temporary custody, visitation, 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,
- Preventing you from owning or possessing firearms,
- Order you to attend counseling or therapy, and
- Protect the petitioner from further violence.
The police will also fingerprint and photograph you for the state domestic violence database, and you'll face a $500 fine.
Additionally, a final restraining order lasts for life in New Jersey. The only exception to this is if the Union 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 Elizabeth, in Union County, or anywhere for that matter, is criminal contempt of a court order, and it is a criminal offense. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. You must comply with all the terms of the restraining order against you. Even texting the petitioner or messaging them on social media could be a violation of your FRO, so make sure you read and understand all the provisions of the order against you. If you violate a restraining order twice, the second violation can result in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30. But violating a court order is never a good idea. Aside from possible jail time and a criminal record, a violation could result in losing child custody or visitation. Moreover, it will be much less likely that the court will modify or lift the restraining order at any point soon.
Hire an Experienced Elizabeth, Union County Restraining Order Attorney
Having a restraining order against you is a serious matter, and it's never a good idea to face a FRO hearing without a lawyer. You need an experienced New Jersey criminal attorney by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has assisted Union County and Elizabeth, New Jersey families through restraining order matters for years. He can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.