Family or domestic violence is a painful and serious issue that affects countless individuals and families. One of the most effective legal tools to combat violence and threats within one’s family or home is a protective order, also known as a Temporary Restraining Order. This blog will outline the process of securing such an order and its implications, as well as resources available for victims of domestic violence.
Understanding Protective Orders
Protective orders, also known as restraining orders, are issued by a court to help protect individuals from being harassed, stalked, threatened, or physically harmed by another person. In the context of domestic violence, restraining orders are typically utilized to help safeguard individuals from harm by a current or former spouse or intimate partner, or current or former household member.
Process of Obtaining Protective/Restraining Orders
- File an Application: The person seeking protection (the plaintiff) must file an application either (1) at the police department where the plaintiff lives, where the domestic violence occurred, or where the other party (the defendant) lives or (2) at the Family Division Office of the Superior Court in the county where the plaintiff lives or is staying, where the domestic violence occurred, or where the defendant lives. The application must detail the incidents of violence or threats as well as any prior history of violence or threats. Police or court staff assist the plaintiff with completing the application. Once the application has been completed, the plaintiff will appear before a hearing officer or judge who will decide whether to grant a temporary restraining order. The defendant is not present at the hearing. If the plaintiff applies at the police department, the police will contact a judge to decide whether to grant a temporary restraining order.
- Temporary (Ex Parte) Orders: If the court finds an immediate danger exists, it may issue a temporary restraining order barring the defendant from having contact with the plaintiff. The temporary restraining order can provide other relief such as exclusive access to a residence, a temporary parenting time schedule, or temporary support award. The temporary restraining order is effective until the final hearing takes place after which the court decides to dismiss the temporary restraining order or to make the restraints permanent. After issuing a temporary restraining order, another hearing will be scheduled within ten (10) days.
- Full Court Hearing: Usually within 10-14 days after the temporary order is issued, a final restraining order hearing will be scheduled. At the final restraining order hearing, both parties can present their evidence and witnesses. If the other party does not appear and there is proof they were given the order and notice of the hearing, the judge can still hear the case. If the other party did not get the order, the court will reschedule the hearing.
- Final Protective Order: If the court determines the defendant committed acts of domestic violence, it may issue a final restraining order. In New Jersey, Final Restraining Orders are permanent. It will last unless changed by the court.
Implications of Restraining Orders
Restraining orders impose several restrictions on the defendant, including:
- No Contact: The defendant will be ordered not to contact or go near the plaintiff, their home, workplace, or school. The defendant will be ordered not to use third parties to contact the plaintiff.
- Residence: The defendant may be ordered to leave a shared residence.
- Custody and Visitation: The court may issue temporary orders about child custody and parenting time.
- Financial Support: The defendant may be ordered to provide temporary financial support.
- Payment of Fines and Fees: The defendant may be ordered to pay certain fines and fees, which could include medical expenses and the plaintiff’s counsel fees. Violation of a restraining order can result in severe penalties, including additional fines and imprisonment.
Resources for Victims of Domestic Violence
In addition to the legal protection provided by protective orders, there are numerous resources available to help victims of domestic violence:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Victims can call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for immediate assistance, counseling, and referral to local services.
- Local Shelters and Nonprofit Organizations: Many communities have organizations that provide emergency shelter, counseling, legal advocacy, and other support services.
- Victim Assistance Programs: Many district attorney’s offices have victim assistance programs that provide support and help navigate the legal process.
- Legal Aid: There are legal aid organizations in many areas that provide free or low-cost legal services to those who qualify.
Nobody should live in fear of violence in their own home. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, seek help immediately from law enforcement or a trusted support organization. Protective orders and available resources can provide much-needed safety and support.
If you or someone you know has a question regarding filing a restraining order or defending against a domestic violence allegation, contact the Williams Law Group, at (908) 810-1083, today to learn more about how we can assist you.