What Statute Governs Restraining Orders?

Someone may obtain a restraining order in New Jersey to protect themselves from an alleged abuser or stalker. New Jersey's restraining order statute explains the process for doing so, how a restraining order may offer protection, and more.

Understanding the law isn't just essential for someone pursuing a restraining order—it's also critical if someone is trying to obtain a restraining order against you.

Luckily, you don't need to go to law school to effectively defend yourself in these circumstances. You can defend yourself by hiring attorneys qualified to handle cases like yours.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team works with clients facing restraining orders and similar threats to their freedom in New Jersey. Find out how we can help with your case by contacting us online or calling us at 888.535.3686 today.

What Is the New Jersey Statute for Restraining Orders?

N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-17 - 25-35 is the official statute for restraining orders in New Jersey. It's also known as the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991.

The law addresses the general topic of domestic violence. Along with restraining orders, it addresses criminal penalties for domestic violence, law enforcement procedures for cases involving domestic violence, and similar topics.

What Does NJ's Restraining Order Statute Consider Domestic Violence?

Per NJ law, domestic violence occurs when an adult or emancipated minor commits any of the following against someone:

  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Terroristic threats
  • Kidnapping
  • Criminal restraint
  • False imprisonment
  • Sexual assault
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Lewdness
  • Criminal mischief
  • Burglary
  • Criminal trespass
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Criminal coercion
  • Robbery

All these acts may qualify as domestic violence. In NJ, they may prompt someone to seek a restraining order.

A restraining order is the result of a civil complaint in New Jersey. However, in cases involving domestic violence, a defendant may also face criminal charges. Even if a court dismisses or dissolves a restraining order, criminal charges can remain in effect.

Who May Obtain a Restraining Order in New Jersey?

A person may seek a RO against someone in New Jersey if they have a romantic relationship with them, a family relationship with them, or ever lived with them. A person can also obtain a restraining order against anyone with whom they have a child.

How Does Someone Obtain a Restraining Order in New Jersey?

Someone who believes they or others are in immediate danger should call 911. Otherwise, someone may request a restraining order by taking the following steps:

  • Completing application paperwork: Someone may complete the application paperwork to request a restraining order by visiting the Superior Court of the county in which they reside. If the courthouse is closed, they can visit the local police station. Either a courthouse worker with the Family Division Office or a police officer can help the applicant complete the paperwork. Once the paperwork is finished, they will set up a hearing with a judge.
  • Participating in a hearing: The initial hearing allows a judge to decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO). The accused doesn't participate in this hearing.

Usually, the judge will agree to issue a TRO. They will then set a date for a final restraining order (FRO) hearing, during which the judge will hear from both parties. The date is usually 10 days from the date of the TRO hearing.

In the meantime, the judge will provide the plaintiff with a copy of the TRO. The police will also receive a copy of the TRO, which they will serve the accused with.

The TRO is a court order. Violating it can result in the defendant's arrest.

When requesting a TRO, the accuser may also wish to file a criminal complaint. They can do so by visiting the municipal court or police department of the county in which they experienced the relevant instance of domestic violence.

If someone has obtained a TRO against you, understanding and abiding by its terms is in your best interest. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can ensure you understand what you can and can't do as you prepare for your FRO hearing. We can also provide valuable representation if your accuser files a criminal complaint while requesting a restraining order.

What Does a TRO Do in New Jersey?

A TRO can include various terms and restrictions. Common powers of a TRO include:

  • Prohibiting a defendant from contacting the plaintiff in any way
  • Prohibiting a defendant from being in the vicinity of the plaintiff
  • Prohibiting a defendant from contacting their children
  • Requiring a defendant to pay child support

If a defendant owns firearms, a TRO may also require them to forfeit their firearms to police. If they currently live with their accuser, they will likely have to find a new place to live until a more permanent resolution is reached.

The police may escort the defendant to their home if they live with their accuser and need to pick up some of their belongings. A TRO can require a defendant to stay away from a home they share with their accuser even if they own it. Additionally, a TRO may require the accused to continue making rent and mortgage payments.

A defendant must thoroughly review and abide by the terms of their TRO. Instead of attempting to contact the plaintiff, which could lead to greater legal issues, they should focus on preparing for the FRO hearing.

How to Prepare for a Restraining Order Hearing in New Jersey

Knowing what to expect during a FRO hearing can make the experience less stressful. The process usually involves these steps:

  • Information-gathering: A staffer may gather information from the plaintiff to determine what outcome they wish to achieve via a hearing. A staffer will also explain the rights of each party. For example, both parties will have the right to present evidence and witnesses. The plaintiff and defendant will usually be separated throughout the hearing.
  • Completing paperwork: A FRO can include requirements that force a defendant to provide various forms of financial support (such as child support). If a plaintiff is seeking financial support, they will need to complete certain paperwork accordingly.
  • Testimony and presentation of evidence: The judge will hear testimony from the plaintiff and the defendant. They may also hear testimony from any relevant witnesses they allow to participate in the hearing. Similarly, the judge may allow both parties to present evidence.
  • Oral arguments: Both the plaintiff and defendant can enlist the help of counsel when preparing for and participating in an FRO hearing. If they do, the hearing may involve oral arguments in which counsel speaks on behalf of their clients.

A lawyer can also help a defendant prepare for their hearing. Tips to keep in mind when getting ready for a FRO hearing include:

  • Abide by the TRO's terms: A FRO can have a significant impact on a defendant's living situation, job, ability to see their children, finances, and more. They must not do anything that could bias a judge against them. Violating the terms of a TRO at all (even by simply attempting to text their accuser) could jeopardize their case.
  • Gather evidence and witnesses: It's typically necessary for a defendant to contact the court to let them know if they plan to introduce evidence or witnesses during their hearing. The court needs to review its choices to decide whether to issue an approval. Thus, a defendant should spend the early days of the 10-day period before their FRO hearing gathering evidence and contacting witnesses who may be able to help them present a strong case.
  • Prepare for the day: A defendant can't let stress affect their mood or behavior on the day of a TRO hearing. They should clear their entire schedule for the day so nothing else is on their mind and they can arrive early. A defendant should also prepare to dress professionally for court. Setting aside the entire day and preparing to dress for court are essential steps even when a FRO hearing is to be held over Zoom or a similar video-conferencing tool, which sometimes happens.
  • Relocate: A defendant may need to find temporary housing to abide by the terms of a TRO. They may also need to look for long-term housing in case the judge issues a FRO.

Preparing for a FRO hearing in New Jersey doesn't need to be as overwhelming as you might assume. With help from The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team, you can get ready for your hearing with confidence.

Does NJ's Restraining Order Statute Allow Defendants to Dismiss Restraining Orders?

A defendant who is currently under a FRO in New Jersey may petition the court to dismiss or vacate the FRO. The plaintiff will receive notice of their motion when they file it. Thus, it can be difficult to get a court to vacate a FRO in New Jersey without the accuser's cooperation.

A court will review the case and determine whether the FRO should stay in effect. A court will usually reference the “Carfagno Factors” when doing so.

How Do the Carfagno Factors Affect a Restraining Order Case?

New Jersey law states one can petition a court to dissolve a restraining order when they can show “good cause.” However, the text of the law doesn't define what qualifies as good cause.

Carfagno v. Carfagno is the New Jersey case that established 11 factors a court will usually consider when deciding whether to dissolve an FRO. They are:

  • Whether the alleged victim consents to dissolving the FRO
  • Whether the victim fears the accused
  • The nature of the current relationship between the accused and the victim
  • Whether the defendant has violated the order or has any other contempt convictions
  • Whether the defendant uses drugs or abuses alcohol
  • Whether the defendant has a history of engaging in violence with others
  • Whether the defendant has participated in counseling
  • The defendant's age and health
  • If the plaintiff opposes dissolving the defendant's restraining order, whether the plaintiff's opposition is in good faith
  • Whether the defendant has any other restraining orders against them
  • Any other factors those reviewing the case believe may be relevant

The judge who issued the FRO will review the motion application for dissolving the FRO unless they're unavailable to do so. A defendant will have to show the judge there has been a “substantial change of circumstances” since the time the judge issued the order.

Moving to dissolve a FRO is a complex process. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can assist with this task, helping you build a strong case.

The Importance of Officially Dissolving a Restraining Order

A FRO is permanent in New Jersey. Unless the defendant successfully petitions the court to dissolve it or the plaintiff requests that the court dissolve a FRO, it will remain in effect.

Do you have an FRO against you? Have you begun to develop a positive relationship with the individual who initially sought the FRO?

The fact that you've developed a relationship at all could mean you're violating your FRO's terms already if they prohibit you from contacting the plaintiff. Even if the plaintiff agrees to see you and indicates, they'd be willing to ask the court to dissolve the restraining order, until the court officially does so, visiting with the plaintiff will almost certainly be a violation of the order.

It can be very encouraging when a former accuser indicates they may be prepared to remove a FRO. However, their wishes aren't enough to automatically reverse a judge's decision.

Don't violate any of a FRO's terms until you're sure the order is no longer in effect. If you're ever accused of a violation, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can offer representation.

Contact a New Jersey Restraining Order Defense Law Firm

New Jersey's restraining order law is very nuanced and complex. If someone is pursuing a restraining order against you, it helps to have representation from knowledgeable attorneys. Their understanding of the law can help you mount an effective defense.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is prepared to help you with everything from reviewing the terms of a TRO to representing you during an FRO hearing. If you need to appeal a FRO, we can assist with this process as well. Learn more about the vital role we could play in your case by calling us at 888.535.3686 or submitting our online contact form.

​​​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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