In New Jersey, we take domestic violence seriously. That's why New Jersey lawmakers passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in 1982. See N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35. Under New Jersey's law, victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence can obtain court orders protecting them from their abusers and future violence. A restraining order can legally prevent an abuser from approaching or contacting their victim. The order can remain in place temporarily or permanently.
Who Can Obtain a Restraining Order in the Warren County Seat in New Jersey?
Restraining orders are available to victims in a “qualified domestic relationship.” These qualifying relationships are intimate or family relationships such as:
- Former or current spouses,
- Former or current partners,
- Dating relationships,
- Members of the same household,
- Family members, and
- Couples who share children.
Restraining orders aren't allowed for strangers, co-workers, neighbors, or classmates in the absence of a domestic or intimate relationship.
Where Do Restraining Order Hearings Happen in Belvidere?
The Warren County seat is in Belvidere, New Jersey, which is where judges hear restraining order matters. FRO hearings will occur in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Warren County Superior Court. The courthouse is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
413 2nd Street
Belvidere, NJ 07823
How do restraining orders work?
Under New Jersey law, there are two types of restraining orders – temporary and final orders. Both temporary restraining orders (TROs) and final restraining orders (FROs) can protect a victim from future violence. The restraining order process is similar across New Jersey. In the Warren County Seat of Belvidere, the petitioner must first apply for a temporary order, which the court will follow with a full hearing for a final order.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
When someone applies for a restraining order, they will first need to have a hearing with a judge to review the application. This order happens ex parte, meaning only the petitioner will be present. The court won't notify you of this hearing, and you don't have the right to appear. The court will decide whether to issue a TRO based solely on the information provided by the petitioner. The judge will issue a TRO if they believe it's necessary to protect the petitioner or your children. At the same time, the judge will set a date for the final hearing in about ten days. The temporary restraining order will only remain in place until the final hearing. See N.J.S.A. §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a).
After the court enters a TRO, the police will serve you with a copy of the order along with notice of the date of the final restraining order hearing, which is usually within ten days. The TRO may also order the police to remove you from a home you share with the petitioner, award temporary custody to the petitioner, order you to pay support for the petitioner or any children you share. The police will also confiscate any firearms you may have.
2. Final Restraining Orders
Unlike the initial TRO hearing, you will have the right to appear for the FRO hearing. Both parties may participate in the FRO hearing, which is a formal court proceeding. You will both have the chance to present evidence and witnesses to the court. However, you must follow the court rules and the rules of evidence. As a result, it's important that you hire a lawyer with experience in restraining order litigation to ensure the best chance of success.
To grant a FRO, the petitioner must show by the preponderance of the evidence that:
- You and the petitioner have a “qualified domestic relationship.” Qualifying relationships include current or former partners or spouses, dating relationships, family members, members of the same household, or parties with children together.
- You committed domestic violence against the petitioner. New Jersey law has a wide variety of crimes that qualify as “domestic violence,” including harassment, threats, stalking, burglary, assault, sexual assault, online harassment, lewdness, criminal trespass, violating a restraining order, and any crime that involves a threat of death or serious injury.
- The restraining order is needed to prevent future domestic violence against the petitioner.
If the judge enters a FRO at the final hearing, it will be more extensive than the initial TRO. Under New Jersey law, the court can include a wide range of provisions in the order, including provisions that:
- Keep you from harassing or contacting the petitioner,
- Award temporary custody and financial support for your children,
- Award financial support such as rent, a mortgage, or other financial obligations,
- Protect the petitioner from future violence,
- Keep you from buying, owning, or possessing firearms,
- Order you to attend therapy, counseling, or anger management classes.
Along with the FRO, the police will include your information, photograph, and fingerprints in the New Jersey Domestic Violence Database.
What Happens if I Violate a Restraining Order?
Violating a restraining order is considered criminal contempt of a court order. It is a criminal offense. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-9. If a court convicts you of violating your restraining order, you will have a criminal record. Moreover, this can affect your ability to regain custody or visitation of your children. If a court convicts you of violating the order a second time, it can result in a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-30. Even an inadvertent violation of the FRO can result in your arrest. As a result, it's important that you understand and carefully follow all the terms of the FRO while it's in place. If you'd like to appeal the FRO or ask the court to lift it or modify its terms, your attorney may be able to help.
Hire an Experienced Restraining Order Attorney
You shouldn't try to face the restraining order process by yourself. You need a New Jersey criminal lawyer with experience in restraining order litigation by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping Warren County and Belvidere families through this process for years, and he can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.