Temporary Restraining Orders in NJ

Temporary restraining orders, or TROs, are issued by a court to temporarily protect an alleged victim of domestic violence from their alleged abuser. While domestic violence is a serious crime, an application for a TRO may be made for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the allegations are true, but at other times, a TRO may be used maliciously by one party in a divorce or custody dispute.

The person seeking a TRO is the petitioner, while the party against whom the order is sought is the defendant. This is slightly misleading since a TRO is a civil and not a criminal order. The petitioner will allege that the defendant presents an immediate and present danger. A TRO prevents the defendant from having any sort of contact with the petitioner. A TRO is temporary in the sense that it is in effect only until the court can hear the case.

The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team are experienced with restraining orders in New Jersey. If you wish to seek a TRO or have been served with a restraining order, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or leave your details online, and we will contact you.

How to Pursue a Temporary Restraining Order

A person seeking a TRO may go to one of two places:

  • The Chancery Division of the Superior Court at their local courthouse.
  • The police station where they live, where the defendant lives, or where the alleged abuse occurred.

To pursue a TRO in the Superior Court, a victim of domestic violence must fill out paperwork and file it with the Chancery Division. Often, an individual seeking a TRO may receive assistance from a domestic violence advocate or get assistance from the Chancery Division in determining whether they meet the legal standards.

A victim of domestic violence may also seek assistance at their local police station, the station where the defendant lives, or where the alleged violence occurred. This process may begin through a 911 call in the event of an emergency. The local police may assist with the paperwork or may be able to contact a municipal court judge in the event of an emergency.

If you are served with a petition for a Final Restraining Order (FRO), you should retain an attorney as soon as possible. A FRO can have devastating consequences on the life of an individual, including the need to change residences, a change in child custody terms, or even the loss of a job or business.

The Contents of an Application for a TRO

An application for a TRO must allege the following:

  • That the parties have a protected relationship. This may mean that the parties:
    • are or were married.
    • dated or lived together.
    • are currently members of the same household.
    • have at least one child together as co-parents.
  • The defendant committed an act of violence.
  • There is an immediate need to restrain the defendant to prevent abuse.

Possible Results of a TRO

An application for a TRO will contain a request for remedial relief. The court is often asked to take actions that may prove very costly for the defendant, including:

  1. An order that the defendant stay away from the petitioner, their home, workplace, school, church, or other location. This may result in the defendant needing to leave the family home and live elsewhere, at least for some time.
  2. An order that the defendant stay a certain distance away from the petitioner at all times. This may prove problematic if the petitioner and the defendant share a social circle or work for the same employer.
  3. An order that the defendant not call, mail, text, or email the petitioner or contact the petitioner.
  4. An order that the defendant have no contact with other parties in the petitioner's life—typically family members, friends, or employers of the petitioner.
  5. A change in the custody schedule for minor children or a change in plan for pick-up and drop-off of minor children. The petitioner may even seek supervised visitation or a temporary cessation of visitation or parenting time.
  6. An order that the defendant be evaluated or seek treatment and an order regarding payment for these services.
  7. An order for temporary support or financial assistance until the court hears the case.

TRO Sections and Allegations

Part One

Subpart A:

Subpart A of an application for a TRO includes the addresses of the parties and allegations on where the alleged violence occurred. This allows the police to establish jurisdiction and serve the defendant.

Subpart B:

Subpart B asks the petitioner to provide a factual basis for the TRO. In this section, the person seeking a TRO gives their side of the story. If the party is alleging domestic violence, they are asked to list all past acts of domestic violence. The form will ask the petitioner to check boxes for the particular criminal act they are alleging, including assault, threats, sexual assault, or stalking.

Section 1 – This section outlines the prior history of the relationship between the petitioner and defendant and may contain allegations of past acts of domestic violence.

Section 2 – This section will outline the criminal history of the defendant. The police may verify this section.

Section 3 – This section will list any pending charges or court proceedings.

Section 4 – The petitioner will decide whether to file a municipal charge. If the police responded to a call of domestic violence and noted any obvious signs of violence on the victim, the police may have already filed charges with the prosecutor.

Section 5 – This section asks the petitioner to list any firearms that they believe the defendant possesses or owns.

Sections 6-8 – These sections list and detail the parties' relationship and list any minor children shared by the parties.

Subpart 2 – Relief Sought

As stated earlier, the petitioner can ask for broad and costly relief in the application for a TRO. In this subpart, the petitioner may ask for the following types of relief:

  1. An order preventing contact.
  2. An order preventing the defendant from entering the prior residence.
  3. Compensation or an order providing interim financial support.
  4. A risk assessment or an order for a psychological evaluation or treatment arrangement and payment.
  5. An order precluding the defendant from possessing a firearm.
  6. Temporary custody arrangements for minor children.
  7. The court may order a warrant that allows the police to search for and seize weapons or ID cards for weapons in the possession of the defendant.

The relief requested in this subpart of the TRO may radically change the defendant's life. The court may order the defendant to leave the family home, and the order may present great challenges for employment while simultaneously asking the defendant for money to support the petitioner or their children. At this point, it is vital that the defendant contact experienced counsel at the Lento Law Firm to minimize the disruptive effects on their life and livelihood.

What Happens When a TRO is Granted

  1. A hearing is scheduled.
  2. This hearing may result in:
    1. A Dismissal Order if the petitioner changes their mind or fails to make necessary allegations.
    2. A Civil Restraint Agreement, or an agreement between the parties regarding contact and other issues. This agreement may be incorporated into later divorce or custody orders or agreements.
    3. A Final Restraining Order (FRO) following a court hearing.

The Court Hearing

Once a petition for a TRO is filed, the superior court judge will hear the petitioner's version of events and determine if a TRO is necessary until a Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing can be scheduled. At this FRO Hearing, the court will decide on more permanent measures.

If a judge grants a TRO, local police will serve a copy of the petition for the TRO on the defendant, along with a notice of the FRO hearing date and location. A final restraining order hearing is typically set within ten days after the TRO has been issued. If the defendant possesses a gun or firearm, they must turn it over to the police as soon as the TRO is served. TROs are legally enforceable until a judge removes, extends, or replaces the TRO with an FRO.

What To Do if a TRO Is Ordered Against You

If a TRO is ordered against you, your behavior over the next ten days is critically important. You must closely follow the terms and conditions of the TRO, including the following steps:

Retain an Experienced Attorney

Your first action should be to retain an experienced attorney who will advise you on the process and formulate a plan for fighting the FRO. Your attorney will provide guidance to prevent you from inadvertently violating the TRO and help you prepare your defense. After hiring an attorney, you can focus on the FRO hearing and getting the best outcome possible in your case.

Do Not Violate the Conditions of the TRO

The most critical thing to do as you wait for the hearing is to abide by the terms of the TRO. Any violation, even if not intentional, can severely harm your case and your standing in the courtroom of the judge who will ultimately decide your case.

Because TROs are in effect for ten days or less, they are written broadly. They will not contain a permanent order of child custody or financial support. But they certainly can have huge consequences for your life, including:

  • A need to move residences, at least temporarily.
  • Submitting any firearms to the court
  • A need to arrange to move your clothes and personal items to an acceptable location.
  • The need to limit contact, delete phone numbers, and modify your habits to comply with the no-contact aspects of the order.

Prepare for Your FRO Hearing

As you prepare for your FRO hearing, the value of experienced counsel will become apparent. Your attorney can explain the legal basis of an FRO and will help you prepare your testimony. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is experienced in both the civil and criminal aspects of the FRO process. If you choose to testify, your testimony can be used against you in a criminal proceeding. Your attorney should be aware of this reality and any pitfalls it might create for you. Your attorney will also contact and prepare any other witnesses in your case. To prepare for the FRO hearing, the Lento Law Firm will:

  • Record witness statements and make arrangements to ensure your witnesses appear in court.
  • Initiate discovery to understand the likely testimony of other witnesses and to know in advance all available information in your case.
  • Locate and collect evidence and prepare to present it in the court hearing.
  • Formulate an effective defense and case strategy.

Final Restraining Orders (FROs)

After the court hearing, the judge will determine whether to grant the request for a Final Restraining Order. Final Restraining Orders (FROs) are often entered as more permanent versions of Temporary Restraining Orders and contain the same terms.

To grant an FRO, the court must find that:

  • The petitioner and defendant were in a domestic relationship.
  • It is more likely than not that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence.
  • To prevent imminent harm to the petitioner, the defendant must be restrained in some way.

Because an FRO can have such a catastrophic impact on a defendant's life, the defendant must fight the issuance of an FRO. A FRO may require a defendant to move, change jobs, and even lose custody of their children.

Do You Need an Attorney?

A restraining order can drastically change a defendant's life. For this reason, a person receiving an application for a TRO/FRO should always obtain experienced legal counsel. An experienced attorney will assist a defendant in avoiding criminal contempt charges or defending against them if necessary.

The FRO Hearing is similar to a criminal proceeding, and a defendant's testimony at the FRO Hearing can be used in a related criminal trial. You should be in a position of trust with your attorney to secure a good outcome and avoid potential issues later on. In this way, you will be able to present your best defense, and you will have the best outcome possible.

If you have been served with a restraining order hearing notice, you need experienced legal advice and representation. The team at the Lento Law Firm has represented countless NJ clients in the court system and restraining order process. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or leave your details online, and we will contact you.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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