How Does A Restraining Order Protect Me In New Jersey?

How Does A Restraining Order Protect Me In New Jersey?

A restraining order is a Court Order issued by a Judge that is intended to protect a victim of domestic violence. Generally, it is meant to prohibit someone from contacting or communicating with the person who obtained the order. The lawyers at our East Brunswick, New Jersey law firm are often asked what restrictions will be assessed as a result of a restraining order. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer. Our attorneys who appear before a judge of the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey who issues the restraining order will decide what restrictions are necessary based upon the circumstances of the case and whether this is a temporary or final restraining order.

In New Jersey, there are two types of restraining orders: a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and a final restraining order (“FRO”). Both a TRO and an FRO are granted with restrictions that are meant to provide protection, not to punish or penalize an alleged perpetrator though the restrictions absolutely could have that effect. The restrictions imposed based on a restraining order often feel punitive because they can restrict where they live, where they can go, with whom they can speak, and can affect a person’s employment.

A TRO is often issued on little more than the allegations of the alleged victim and provide temporary protection from alleged domestic abuse. An alleged perpetrator will be barred from any future acts of domestic violence (which includes Harassment, Assault, Criminal Mischief, Terroristic Threats, Sexual Assault, Lewdness, Stalking, Criminal Trespass, and Burglary). This restriction can also be extended to other parties. For example, the Court can bar the alleged perpetrator from stalking, following, or threatening to stalk or follow the victim or the victim’s family, friends or children- whether they are the perpetrator’s children or not.

Speaking of children, a victim may be granted temporary custody of the parties’ children and may be awarded child support as a result of the TRO. A victim can be awarded temporary financial support which can include but is not limited to rent, utilities, car payments, cell phone payments, credit card payments, etc. In addition to this “support”, the Court can also order Punitive and Compensatory damages to the victim. Parenting time with the children may be temporarily suspended or could be done only under Court supervision. A perpetrator may be required to maintain medical insurance for the victim and any children and may be required to maintain car, homeowners or renter’s insurance.

A perpetrator will be banned from possessing any weapons, including but not limited to lawfully registered firearms. The perpetrator has an obligation to surrender all weapons, including firearms, to the officer or department who serves the TRO. Any permit to carry, application to purchase, and firearms purchaser ID car must also be turned over. Failure to comply can result in arrest and incarceration. Additionally, the process of receiving these items back from the Court, known as forfeiture, is another Court proceeding that will require the perpetrator to attend or the items will become the property of the law enforcement agency and subject to auction.

An alleged victim can request, and the Court can order, that an alleged perpetrator be restricted in where he or she goes. For example, the perpetrator can be barred from the victim’s residence, victim’s place of employment, the location of the alleged domestic violence and any other location which is related to the allegations. It is important to understand that this restriction is important not to underestimate as this can mean that the alleged perpetrator is unable to return to their own home (if the parties live together or the alleged abuse happened at their home) or could even be unable to return to their job (if they work together or the alleged abuse happened at their job). In fact, a victim can be given sole use and rights to live in a joint residence. The perpetrator will not be permitted to return to the residence for any reason, except that they may be provided a small window of time, typically thirty (30) minutes to gather personal belongings with police officer supervision. Even though a trial is initially scheduled within ten (10) days, often these matters may be delayed for weeks or even months, meaning that the alleged perpetrator could be out of work or without a place to live until the TRO is dismissed or an FRO is entered (though an FRO could permanently bar the alleged perpetrator from the home).

The Court will likely place a restriction on who the alleged perpetrator can speak with. For example, the perpetrator will be completely barred from having any communication, whether oral, written, in person, electronic, or any other signs of communication with the victim. Additionally, the perpetrator will be barred from having any third persons contact the victim on their behalf.

An alleged perpetrator may have to undergo anger management evaluation, batterer’s intervention program, drug and alcohol evaluation or a risk assessment to determine if counseling or other treatment is necessary.

All of these restrictions can be enforced before the Court even hears an alleged perpetrator’s side of the allegations. If you are a victim of domestic violence, obtaining the advice of an experienced family law attorney before you file your restraining order may assist you in ensuring that you receive all of the protection and support you need while you await trial to determine if an FRO can be issued. Conversely, if you have been accused of an allegation of domestic violence, it is equally critical that you obtain an experienced family law attorney to ensure that the TRO is being used as a shield for the defendant and not as a sword to punish you.

Please call our office at (732) 783-5588 if we may be of service to you or a loved one.

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