Domestic violence has been declared “a serious crime against society” and New Jersey has long had a law entitled The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. It specifies what can be considered as acts of domestic violence and how these cases are handled.
How do you get a restraining order?
If you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of being a victim of domestic violence, the first step is to file a complaint asking for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) from the Family Court or from a municipal court judge. If granted, a Court date will be set within the TRO at which time a judge will determine in a trial if a Final Restraining Order (FRO) should be entered. These trials can take weeks, and even months, to conclude, although most are resolved either with dismissal or a shorter trial. If appropriate, the parties, usually with the assistance of counsel, can negotiate dismissal of a TRO and entry of a Consent Order for Civil Restraints. This does not have the protections of a TRO or an FRO: if there is a violation, the police will simply say to contact counsel and seek enforcement in the Family Court.
What can be the consequences of having a restraining order entered against you?
If you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of being accused of domestic violence, the consequences of having an FRO entered against you can be significant. You can be removed from your home, prevented from seeing your children except under supervision, required to attend anger management classes, required to register as a domestic violence abuser and pay a fine, pay support to your accuser, pay your accuser’s medical expenses, if any, and pay their counsel fees and costs as well. If it isn’t possible to negotiate dismissal, with or without a Consent Order for Civil Restraints, a trial will be necessary unless the abuse is admitted. The consequences of violating an FRO entered against you can be significant as well. The victim is represented by the prosecutor’s office, and the penalties can include jail time.
How long does a Final Restraining Order (FRO) remain in effect in New Jersey?
Unlike some states, there is no set time in New Jersey for the automatic expiration of an FRO. If the victim consents, a judge ordinarily will grant the defendant’s request. If not, a hearing will be held and the judge will consider specific factors a defendant must show in order to grant this request.
The New Jersey Courts have developed an excellent guide explaining the details of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
Ms. Copeland helped to work on the first New Jersey Law Against Domestic Violence, was legal counsel for many years to the Somerset Resource Center (now known as Safe + Sound) which shelters and counsels victims of domestic violence and their families, including services to abusers. She has lectured on this topic to Family Court judges and for the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education.