How to Obtain a Restraining Order in New Jersey
If you are in immediate distress, please call 911 or the Statewide Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE (1-800-572-7233)
Restraining orders (aka. protective orders) were created to protect victims of domestic violence in New Jersey. There are two types of restraining orders, temporary and final.
Both types of protective orders prohibit the defendant from contacting the person who filed the protective order in any way, both in-person and digital. They establish a minimum distance that must be maintained between both parties and ban the defendant from going to the home and workplace of the plaintiff.
If both parties are cohabitating when the order is requested, the defendant must move out of the residence for the duration of time stated in the order. This is nonnegotiable, and it does not matter who technically owns the residence.
Temporary Restraining Orders in New Jersey
Temporary restraining orders (TROs) can be obtained quickly and easily. A person can request a temporary restraining order by filing a domestic violence complaint and TRO request at several locations:
- Family Division of the county court
- Home of the defendant
- Home of the plaintiff
- Local police station
- Location where the domestic violence occurred
- The temporary residence of the plaintiff (i.e., shelter, friend’s house, etc.)
If the request is made with the police, the officer will contact a judge who arranges a time to hear the request. Depending on the circumstances, the judge might even issue a TRO over the phone.
If the request is made at the courthouse, the process is a little different. According to the NJ courts:
A domestic violence staff member will interview the plaintiff and ask specific questions that pertain to the incident that has brought them to court and about past incidents of domestic violence. After the interview, there will be a hearing with a domestic violence hearing officer or judge. This hearing is without notice to the defendant.
If the restraining order is granted, the plaintiff will be issued a temporary restraining order (TRO). If the hearing officer does not recommend a TRO, the plaintiff may request to have the matter heard before a judge.
Courtroom hearings to obtain a TRO often do not require the presence of the defendant. Sometimes, defendants are not even aware the process is in motion until they are delivered the protective order.
When the TRO is granted, the order must be served directly to the defendant along with the date of the final restraining order hearing. This is typically done by a police officer. If the defendant owns a firearm, it will be confiscated by the police at this time.
Final Restraining Orders in New Jersey
A final restraining order (FRO) has the same protective elements as a TRO, but with an indefinite time limit. The judge can turn a temporary protective order into a final protective order at the final hearing, which must occur within 10 days of the TRO being issued.
Both the plaintiff and defendant can be present and testify at the final hearing. If the defendant chooses to skip the hearing, it will continue without him/her.
If you have not found a family law attorney to attend your final hearing, we highly recommend you do so. Confronting an abuser in court is a stressful and intimidating situation, and you must produce specific evidence to obtain the FRO. It helps to have an advocate that successfully navigates these proceedings on a regular basis.
Final restraining orders have a serious and lasting impact on the defendant. The defendant will be entered into the police database, and no longer allowed to own or purchase a firearm in New Jersey. A final restraining order is not permanent. It can be dissolved by the courts if the plaintiff wants it to be, after somewhat of a lengthy process.
The NJ Administrative Office of the Courts Family Practice Division put together a simple guide to obtaining temporary and final restraining orders. You can access it here.
Hire a New Jersey Divorce and Family Law Attorney
Restraining orders are legally binding. If a person knowingly violates the terms of a protective order, they are subject to arrest and criminal charges. If the defendant attempts to contact the plaintiff through a third party (family, friends, etc.), that is also considered a violation of the order.
Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of a restraining order, you must follow the rules of the order to the letter. Something as small as a text message can hurt your divorce settlement, sabotage your custody arrangement, and land you in jail.
If you feel unsafe, you have options. Seek the advice of legal counsel in your jurisdiction to know exactly what your rights are.
The divorce and custody lawyers at Arons & Solomon work with clients and families in the northern New Jersey and New York City areas. Contact us for a free consultation.