Sadly, domestic violence is a real problem many New Jerseyans face every day. Statistics indicate a domestic violence act happens every 7.29 minutes in New Jersey. If a spouse or partner commits domestic violence against their significant other or a child, there is a good probability it will happen again. Fortunately, victims in New Jersey can take legal action once they remove themselves from immediate danger to keep their offenders away from them. This is called a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).
It’s important for domestic violence victims to seek legal advice right away. NJ state law dictates an abuser has the right to a hearing within 10 days after a TRO is issued. This doesn’t give much time to prepare. The Breslow Law Offices understand the urgency of domestic violence situations and are prepared to take swift action. Since 1978, Breslow Law Offices have been protecting the rights of victims. To find out more about receiving a protective order, call our Verona/Essex office at 973-239-8000 or our Long Beach Island/Ocean County office at 609-494-8884 today.
What Acts Constitute Domestic Violence in NJ?
Domestic violence is defined in the State of New Jersey as a violent act committed by a spouse (or former spouse), any present or former household member (aged 18 or older or an emancipated minor), a person the victim either shares or is expecting a child with, or a person the victim is currently or has previously dated.
Offenses constituted as domestic violence that can be listed on the complaint include:
- Criminal Coercion
- Criminal Restraint
- Criminal Sexual Contact
- Criminal Mischief
- Criminal Trespass
- False Imprisonment
- Sexual assault
- Stalking, and terroristic threats.
Additionally, any other acts the courts deem to create a risk of serious bodily injury or death can also be listed.
What is a Temporary Restraining Order in NJ?
Victims subjected to their abuser’s anger, violent, or harassing behaviors don’t have to quietly suffer. A TRO is a legal tool for victims to use to keep their abuser away from them and/or their children. If a judge finds evidence the victim is in danger, a TRO will be issued to protect the victim from further harm. It is a short-term protective measure until a more permanent solution can be put into place.
After a TRO is issued in NJ, both parties are required to go to court and tell their side of the story. At this time a judge will decide to grant the victim a final restraining order (FRO) or to dissolve the TRO completely. When attending this hearing, victims should have a domestic violence lawyer by their side to ensure their rights and safety are preserved when seeking a permanent court order to protect them from their abuser.
In 2017, New Jersey courts issued 27,151 TROs, many of which were converted after the hearing to the permanent FRO. FROs have no ending date and can last forever (unless one or both parties request it to be changed and a judge agrees).
How Does a TRO Protect Me?
TROs are quickly issued to victims. In New Jersey, there is usually a judge on call who can issue temporary orders and set a hearing date. After one is issued, if the abuser breaks the terms of the TRO, they can be charged with a disorderly persons offense or, if they’ve committed an assault, charged with a crime of the fourth degree. New Jersey courts do not take breaking the terms of a restraining order lightly.
How Do I File for a TRO?
Taking legal action against an abuser is a brave – and necessary – step to take. To obtain a restraining order in New Jersey, victims can expect to provide police or court officials with information related to the domestic violence that took place. A TRO can be petitioned at a municipal court, Superior court, or police station either where the victim (referred to as the “plaintiff”) or the abuser (referred to as the “defendant”) lives, or in the location where an incident took place. At the court or police station, the person taking information from the petitioner will fill out the required forms. Information they’ll ask includes:
- Defendant’s personal information, including their address, so the police can serve them with the TRO.
- Detailed account of the incident, including the time and place it occurred. The more detail able to be provided, the stronger the case. Be sure to note any specific injuries or pain (i.e. bruises on an arm or a stinging sensation from a slap) suffered.
- Note the category of the offense(s) committed.
- Describe any previous domestic violence incidents, even if they weren’t reported at the time. (This is CRITICAL to include – if it’s not noted on the TRO, it cannot be discussed at the FRO hearing).
- Share any knowledge of the defendant’s criminal history, if known. Law enforcement will run a check, but the more details provided, the better).
- Any prior or pending court activities between the plaintiff and defendant.
- Indicate if any known weapons are possessed by the defendant.
- Nature of the relationship shared with the defendant and information related to any children shared.
- A photograph of the defendant, if available.
During the TRO process, victims will also be asked if they’d like to file a municipal charge against the defendant. This is optional. Once the forms are completed, they need to be signed and dated to certify them. Before signing, be sure to provide a full description of the incident(s). Everything on this form is what the judge will look at during the hearing, so it’s important to be very detailed and not leave crucial information out. The police officer or court official will also ask the victim about their personal information, any other potential victims in the situation, child custody or child support issues, treatments needed, and if any financial assistance from the defendant is required. This information will be factored into the judge’s decision at the FRO hearing.
How a New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer Can Help
It’s important for domestic violence victims to understand they do have the right to have a lawyer present with them if they prefer when they file for a domestic violence restraining order. Unfortunately, sometimes information doesn’t translate correctly on the forms which will be brought to the court hearing. An attorney can ensure all of the paperwork for either a TRO is completed in full with all of the pertinent information included. This will ensure the FRO hearing goes smoothly and the victim receives a final order to legally protect them from the abuser continuing contact.
The attorneys at the Breslow Law Offices understand the sensitive nature of domestic violence and the urgency involved. For more than 45 years, our attorneys have helped numerous NJ victims, both male and female, in getting the protection from their abusers they need and deserve. Even if you didn’t have an attorney when you filed for your TRO, our lawyers will meticulously go through your paperwork and determine if important information relating to the court case is missing so we can ensure all of the pertinent details are included at the FRO hearing. We’ll stay with you every step of the way. To learn more about domestic violence, TRO, FRO, or to receive a free consultation, call our offices in Verona/Essex office at 973-239-8000 or our Long Beach Island/Ocean County office at 609-494-8884 today.