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NJ Restraining Order Rule

December 17, 2023

 

NJ Restraining Order Rules

Restraining orders in New Jersey are governed by the state’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. This allows victims of domestic violence to obtain court orders to protect themselves from further abuse by restricting contact with the abuser.

Types of Restraining Orders

Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs)

A victim can request a temporary restraining order (TRO) when first filing a complaint for a restraining order. The TRO goes into effect immediately if the judge determines it is necessary to protect the victim’s life, health or well-being[1].

TROs last until the final restraining order hearing, which must happen within 10 days[2]. They can order the defendant to refrain from contact with the victim, stay away from certain locations like the victim’s home and work, and may require surrender of firearms.

Final Restraining Orders (FROs)

After a hearing where both parties present evidence, a judge can issue a final restraining order (FRO) with permanent restrictions on the defendant. Unlike TROs, FROs do not expire and the restrictions continue indefinitely unless modified by a judge[3].

Violating a restraining order, whether a TRO or FRO, is a criminal offense in NJ[4]. A second offense carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days[5].

Who Can File for a Restraining Order

Under New Jersey law, the following individuals can file for a domestic violence restraining order if they have been subjected to domestic abuse by:

  • Family or household members including:
    • Current and former dating partners
    • Current and former spouses
    • Persons related by blood, marriage or adoption
    • Foster parents
    • People who have a child in common
  • Victims of non-consensual sexual contact by a stranger
  • Parents or guardians filing on behalf of a minor child or dependent adult against stalking or harassment[6]

Emancipated minors can file for a restraining order as an adult. Minors who are not legally emancipated cannot directly file for a restraining order, but their parent or guardian can file on their behalf[7].

Grounds for Restraining Orders

To obtain any type of restraining order in New Jersey, the victim must establish that an act of domestic violence has occurred. Under NJ law, domestic violence includes the following crimes:

  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Terroristic threats
  • Kidnapping
  • Criminal restraint
  • False imprisonment
  • Sexual assault
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Lewdness
  • Criminal mischief
  • Burglary
  • Criminal trespass
  • Harassment
  • Cyberharassment
  • Stalking
  • Criminal coercion
  • Robbery
  • Contempt of a domestic violence order
  • Any other crime putting the victim at risk of serious bodily injury

Courts can also grant restraining orders to victims of sexual assault by a stranger and civil restraints against stalking or harassment of a minor child.

Unlike criminal cases which require proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the standard for granting restraining orders is lower – a “preponderance of evidence” showing domestic violence more likely occurred.

How to File for Restraining Orders in NJ

Follow these steps to obtain a domestic violence restraining order in New Jersey:

  1. Obtain forms – Visit the court clerk’s office in your county and ask for the forms to apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO). Forms are also available online from the NJ Courts website.
  2. Complete forms – Fill out the forms detailing the acts of domestic violence. Forms include a complaint, an affidavit describing what happened, and a TRO application.
  3. File the forms in court – Submit completed forms to the court clerk along with the filing fee (fee may be waived in cases of financial hardship). Include any supporting evidence like medical records, police reports etc.
  4. Court reviews TRO application – A judge reviews the application and determines whether a TRO should be granted immediately.
  5. Service of process – If a TRO is granted, the court will arrange for law enforcement to serve the order on the defendant. This puts them on notice of the restrictions and upcoming FRO hearing date.
  6. Attend FRO hearing – Both parties must attend the final restraining order hearing scheduled within 10 days. This offers both sides the chance to testify, present witnesses and provide evidence to the judge, who then decides whether an FRO should be issued.

Enforcing Restraining Orders

Restraining orders issued anywhere in New Jersey are enforceable statewide under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

If the defendant violates any conditions set in the order, the victim should:

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if violation puts them in danger
  • Report violation to local police department
  • Violations must be investigated and are subject to mandatory arrest in NJ
  • Prosecutors can file criminal charges for contempt of a domestic violence order

Victims moving to other states can also get their NJ restraining order enforced locally, though processes differ in each state.

Getting Help with Restraining Orders

Victims of domestic violence have resources available to help navigate the restraining order process in New Jersey:

  • Advocates – Non-profit domestic violence organizations provide advocates to offer information, assistance with forms, attend hearings etc. Find local advocates on the NJ Department of Children and Families website or WomensLaw.org.
  • Legal Services – Several legal aid organizations in NJ assist domestic violence victims with restraining orders for free if they qualify, such as LSNJ (Legal Services of New Jersey).
  • Shelters – Victims can find emergency shelter, counseling and other resources through local domestic violence shelters, listed on the NJ DCF website.

Getting a restraining order in New Jersey can be complex, but victims don’t have to go through the process alone. Connecting with advocates and legal help in the community can make getting protection from abuse easier.

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