How Victims of Domestic Violence can Protect Themselves in New Jersey
A difficult aspect of my New Jersey Family Law practice is dealing with Domestic Violence issues. When a couple is breaking up, emotions run high. Regretfully, at times some people simply cannot control their temper during this difficult time of their lives and cause their soon to be ex-spouse or partner to become fearful for their safety. These dreadful episodes are so common that the state of New Jersey enacted the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to protect victims.
New Jersey's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act allows victims to obtain Temporary Restraining Orders when it appears that the applicant's life, health or well-being is in danger. A vast majority of actions of domestic violence occur inside the home. The victim must immediately call "911" and the local police department shall dispatch officers to the scene to investigate. If during the investigation, the police determine that domestic violence has likely occurred, they must notify the victim of their right to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order. If the victim elects to seek the Temporary Restraining Order, the police shall immediately arrange for the victim to speak to a Municipal Court Judge or direct them to the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey. The judge shall then listen to the victim's sworn testimony and, upon finding "good cause," may instantly issue the Temporary Restraining Order.
Upon the Temporary Restraining Order being initiated, the defendant shall be immediately served with the document by the appropriate law enforcement agency and the police in the town that the defendant lives shall be immediately notified as well. The Defendant shall then be advised that they are legally barred from any contact whatsoever with the Plaintiff. This includes written communications such as text messages and contact through third parties. Furthermore, if the defendant owns any firearms or other weapons, they shall be instantly be seized from any location that the Judge has reason to believe weapons may be located. The judge may also order temporary suspension of parenting time with the minor children and the defendant, and when appropriate, may award temporary financial support to the victim pending the ultimate resolution of the Restraining Order.
Within ten days of the issuance of the Temporary Restraining Order, a trial shall be held at the Superior Court of New Jersey. During the trial, the Judge will make a determination as to whether a Final Restraining Order should be issued. In doing so, the Judge will listen to the testimony regarding the date in question. Then, if the Court feels that it is appropriate, the Judge will listen to any allegations of a history of domestic violence between the parties.
After all testimony has been taken, the Judge has render a decision. If the Court does not find that the plaintiff's welfare or safety is at risk from the Defendant, the Temporary Restraining Order shall be dismissed. On the other hand, if the Court finds that the plaintiff truly is a victim of domestic violence at the hands of the Defendant, a Final Restraining Order shall be issued.
Upon the Court enacting a Final Restraining Order, not only is the defendant restrained from subjecting the victim to future acts of domestic violence (or face immediate jail time) various forms of relief are available. N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(b). These include exclusive possession of the residence, temporary child and spousal support as well as payment of monthly marital bills, and temporary custody of the children.
If parenting time is an issue, the Judge may order a temporary schedule. However, if the acts of domestic violence by the defendant or serious enough, the judge may only award "supervised" parenting time between the defendant and the kids pending a psychiatric evaluation or anger counseling.
At the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein, we are experts handling at this complex area of NJ Family Law. Please click here to learn more. Now, if you are in an emergency, please call 911 immediately. Once you have completed the initial stages of obtaining the Temporary Restraining Order, then please contact my office so we may assist you. On the other hand, if you have been living in a situation that causes you to live in fear, please never hesitate to contact my office so that we may evaluate your situation and provide you with guidance, assurance and legal advice.