Can Anyone Obtain a Restraining Order in NJ?
No, in order to be able to obtain a temporary restraining order in Monmouth County, the “victim” in the matter, which is more commonly referred to as the “plaintiff”, must satisfy two requirements pursuant to New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25 the individual seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) must not only qualify as a “domestic violence victim” but must also establish that they are the victim of an “act of domestic violence” at the hands of the “aggressor” also known as the defendant.
Who is Considered a Victim under New Jersey Domestic Violence Prevention Act?
In order to obtain protection under New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the individual in the matter must first establish that they would be considered a “domestic violence victim”. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(d), there are three categories of individual’s that will be protected under this act. In other words, the individual will need to establish that they and the defendant fall under one of the following three categories:
- That they either are a present and/or former household member of the defendant.
- Some common examples include spouses, siblings, parents, children, roommates etc. It is important to note here that the “former” aspect of this subsection does not have a specific time period in which it must fall under.
- That they have a child in common with the defendant.
- This includes anyone expecting a child as well.
- That they either currently and/or was in a dating relationship the defendant.
- This as well extends to the any and all past dating relationship, regardless of how long ago they were.
What is Considered an “Act of Domestic Violence” in NJ?
Not all crimes committed by a defendant against an individual that falls under one of the previous three categories will lead to them potentially being served with temporary restraining order in New Jersey. In addition to establishing that they qualify as a “victim” pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(d), in order to obtain a temporary restraining order, the individual must also establish that the defendant committed one of the classified “acts of domestic violence”. In other words, the individual would have to establish that the defendant committed one of the following crimes:
- Terroristic Threats
- Criminal Restraint
- False Imprisonment
- Sexual Assault
- Criminal Sexual Contact
- Criminal Mischief
- Criminal Trespass
What Happens After a TRO is Served in NJ?
Temporary Restraining Orders are exactly what they sound like, temporary. In order to become permanent, a formal hearing must be conducted. All temporary restraining orders issued in New Jersey will be litigated in the County courthouse, Chancery Division, Family Part, in the County where the individual files. Traditionally, this should be in the County where the alleged acts of domestic violence occurred. However, with regards to certain allegations (harassment, cyber-harassment, terroristic threats) the victim could seek to obtain protection from the County where they reside as opposed to the County where the defendant committed the act. For example, if a victim who lives in Monmouth County receives harassing and threatening text messages from an ex-boyfriend who lives in Ocean County, she will be able to file the TRO in Monmouth County. In the above example, the case would be litigated in the Monmouth County Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, which is located in Freehold Township.
Is a Temporary Restraining Order a Crime in New Jersey?
No, temporary restraining orders in New Jersey are not considered criminal offenses, that is why they are litigated in the Chancery Division, Family Part as opposed to the Criminal Division. Therefore, if a Final Restraining Order is imposed after a hearing, the defendant will not be scarred with a criminal record or subject to jail time but there are a lot of other significant consequences that could be imposed. For more information the consequences, see below.
With that being said, it is certainly possible, and more often than not it is the case, that the defendant is also charged criminally. If that is to occur, then those charges will be in addition to the temporary restraining order and will be litigated in an entirely different court.
Is it Possible for a TRO to be Dismissed?
In order for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to become a final order of protection (FRO) a formal hearing must be conducted. These hearings are in essence mini trials, whereby both parties will be called upon to present their cases to the judge. That includes potentially calling witnesses, introducing evidence as well as cross-examining the other parties witnesses. If the judge concludes that there is a domestic relationship between the parties, that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence against the victim and that an order of protection is necessary to protect the victim from future acts of domestic violence, a final order will be entered.
What are the Ramification of a Final Order of Protection in NJ?
Unlike almost every other State in the Country, a Final Restraining Order does not expire in New Jersey. The consequences of a final order of protection in New Jersey can be more crippling than the criminal repercussion. Here is just a list of some of the potential ramification of a final restraining:
- Removed from their home
- Barred from having contact with their children
- Suspension of their custodial rights to their children
- Compensatory & Punitive Damages
- Emergent Monetary Relief
- Mandatory Seizure of firearms
- Mandatory Loss of right to own firearms
- Refrained from speaking to Plaintiff
- Psychological Evaluation
- Professional Counseling
- Entered into central registry for domestic violence