Who Can Serve a Restraining Order in NJ?

The process of seeking and serving a restraining order in New Jersey is limited to people in intimate or familial relationships. To qualify for a restraining order, the parties must have been married or in a civil union, lived together, dated, or had children together. In short, they must be family members, current or former partners, or roommates.

In New Jersey, a restraining order is a tool for limiting domestic violence. Note that there are other types of protective orders for other types of relationships, but traditional restraining orders address domestic violence.

If a person is in an intimate relationship with another person and they experience the following, they may get a restraining order:

  • Assault
  • Sexual Assault
  • False Imprisonment
  • Kidnapping
  • Threats
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Other Crimes Involving Serious Injury

The person who seeks a restraining order is known as the Petitioner, and the party against whom the order is sought is referred to as the Respondent.

The Lento Law Firm is Experienced in Restraining Orders

Contact the Lento Law Firm today if you need to seek a restraining order or have been served one. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has years of experience representing parties seeking or defending against restraining orders. Call 888-535-3686 or leave your details online, and we will contact you.

Restraining Orders vs. No Contact Orders

New Jersey law clearly distinguishes between restraining orders and “no contact” orders in criminal cases. Restraining orders are entered by civil courts (although violations are criminal), while criminal courts enter “no contact” orders in criminal cases. The parties in a “no contact” order do not need to be in any intimate or family relationship, but there must be a pending criminal charge against the defendant. In a restraining order case, criminal charges are not necessary.

Standard for Granting a Restraining Order

There are two types of restraining orders in New Jersey—temporary orders, or TROs, and final restraining orders, or FROs. There is a relatively low standard for the grant of a TRO, but an FRO is another matter. The judge must view the petitioner's allegations as warranted and legitimate to grant a TRO. At the FRO hearing, which is held within ten days of entry of the TRO, the court will be more sensitive to any possible abuse of the process. The court must be convinced that it is more likely than not that the concerns of the victim are legitimate. The judge may consider any previous history of domestic violence when determining if the fears of the victim are reasonable.

Who Is Eligible to Seek a Restraining Order

An “eligible individual” is:

  • Over the age of 18 or an emancipated minor.
  • One of the following in relation to the Respondent:
    • A spouse or an ex-spouse.
    • A domestic partner.
    • A current or former roommate or household member.
    • A co-parent or are expecting a child together.
    • In a dating relationship currently or in the past.

Remember that gender is not a prerequisite—anyone who meets the above criteria may seek a restraining order regardless of gender.

Same-Sex Partners

In New Jersey, the protections under the statute are available to same-sex couples. As long as the relationship fits the statute, the victim of domestic violence may seek a restraining order regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Actions (Predicate Acts) For a Restraining Order

In order to qualify for a restraining order, a petitioner must allege a predicate act of violence. This act of violence may be:


After an alleged assault by a person with whom the victim had an intimate or familial relationship (domestic violence), the victim may seek a restraining order. For a simple assault, contact doesn't need to take place. If a person attempts to cause bodily harm or uses physical menace to make another person fear that they will be assaulted, that is adequate.

Sexual Assault

In the aftermath of an alleged sexual assault or rape by a person with whom the victim had an intimate or family relationship, the victim may pursue a restraining order.

If the alleged victim and perpetrator do not share the required intimate or familial relationship to get a restraining order under the domestic violence statute, another option is available. An alleged victim of sexual assault may get a civil protective order (similar to a restraining order) under the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act (SASPA). The court may issue a protective order where necessary to serve the safety and well-being of the victim. Hearings for a final restraining order commonly occur within ten days under this law. The court will enter an FRO if it finds that the victim was subjected to unwanted sexual contact, lewdness, or an attempt to commit a non-consensual sexual act. A sexual assault restraining order may be another option in the event you do not qualify for a domestic violence restraining order due to the lack of the required past relationship.

Stalking or Harassment

If a victim alleges stalking or harassment under NJ law, they may seek a restraining order against the person allegedly stalking or harassing them.

If you are the parent of a minor who is being stalked, you may need to seek a restraining order. Ordinarily, a minor who is not emancipated cannot get a restraining order. But if a minor is being stalked by another person as required under the statute, a parent or guardian may get a restraining order on their behalf. The parent must file with the Superior Court just as any other party seeking a restraining order would. It is not necessary that the defendant be convicted of stalking. 1 N.J. Stat. § 2C:25-19(d).

Child Endangerment

If the person seeking a restraining order alleges that the other party has harmed or threatened to harm a minor child, they may seek a restraining order on that basis. Typically, this will involve children that the parties co-parent. This may involve witnessing domestic violence or threats of domestic violence made against a minor child. These types of allegations in a TRO can be devastating when made against a person with custody of a minor child. Conversely, they may be made against someone in a divorce or custody proceeding to prevent the person from gaining custody. The court that hears the FRO has the power to limit contact or put very limiting orders in place. For that reason, any parent who is served with a restraining order alleging child endangerment must secure legal counsel immediately.


If an individual has threatened another person, the alleged victim may seek a restraining order based on those threats. In New Jersey, it is a crime to threaten violence against another person to terrorize them. This may be a pattern of minor threats done with reckless disregard or a single instance of a serious threat (a death threat, for instance).

Other Crimes

Any other crime involving the risk of death or serious injury may form the basis of a predicate act for a restraining order. As long as the person committing the act is in an intimate or familial relationship with the person seeking the order, the requirement of the statute is met.

Filing a Restraining Order on Someone in Another State

For a court to enter a TRO or a FRO against an individual, they must have personal jurisdiction over them. Where an individual now lives in another state, this can be a difficult issue, but there are several ways in which the court can gain personal jurisdiction over someone. First, the individual may have a substantial connection to New Jersey. Maybe they travel here a great deal or own property in New Jersey. Another way of establishing jurisdiction is if an act of abuse occurred in New Jersey. Maybe the individual recently fled the state, or they have sent threatening letters or phone calls to a New Jersey address or telephone number. If none of these conditions are met, you still may be able to get a protective order in the state where the individual now lives. Every case is a little different and it is necessary to discuss the facts of the case with an experienced attorney to formulate a good plan.

Physical Service of the Restraining Order

In the legal community, service refers to the legally recognized delivery of a document. After the court enters a Temporary Restraining Order, local law enforcement will serve a copy on the Respondent. A person securing a restraining order does not serve the other party and will not be present when it is served.

For safety concerns, contact between the party seeking a final order and the Respondent will be limited from this point going forward. The police officer who serves a copy of the order will take actions necessary to comply with the terms of the order. This might mean escorting the Respondent from a joint residence or taking possession of the Respondent's firearms. Sometimes, it will be necessary for the police officer to take the Respondent to a joint residence to secure personal items.

Any person with safety concerns should openly share those concerns in the application for a TRO. If there are safety concerns of this type, law enforcement will use care or work with the family.

The most important fact to remember is that law enforcement will physically serve the order on the Respondent, not the party seeking the TRO. No one should delay seeking a restraining order because they fear the other party's reaction. Take the steps necessary to protect yourself and work closely with law enforcement. Of course, the Respondent may violate the terms of the restraining order, but this can lead to serious criminal charges and jail time.

Extreme Risk Protection Orders

This type of protection order pertains to gun possession and ownership. If the person against whom the order is sought poses an immediate and present danger to himself or others, this order will prevent access to firearms. Specifically, the order will prevent the Respondent from purchasing, owning, or possessing a firearm. There is a requirement that the petitioner have an intimate or familial relationship with the Respondent as:

  • A spouse or an ex-spouse.
  • A family or household member.
  • A domestic partner or prior domestic partner.
  • A civil union partner or prior civil union partner.
  • A current or former roommate.
  • A person with whom the Respondent has a child or is expecting a child.
  • Someone the Respondent is dating or has dated.
  • A law enforcement officer.

Registration of Out-of-State Protection Order

If you have a protection order from another state and move to New Jersey, take a copy to a county Family Division Intake Domestic Violence Unit. They will ask you to fill out an information form and a certification form and contact the court that issued the order. After verifying that the order is authentic, the Family Division should provide it to law enforcement. If you need help with this process or have other concerns, contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team.

What a Restraining Order Will Prohibit

If issued, the FRO typically prohibits the Respondent from contacting the victim. It may also include a prohibition against future violence or harassment and provide for the custody and transfer of minor children. The order may also address who will live in a community residence, the possession of other property, and the prohibition against possessing weapons.

How the Lento Law Firm Can Help

If you are concerned about your safety and wish to pursue a TRO or have been served a TRO, contact the Lento Law Firm Team immediately. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm represent both petitioners and respondents in restraining order cases and will vigorously pursue the best outcome possible in your case. The Lento Law Firm has represented countless NJ clients in the court system and protective 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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