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Temporary Restraining Orders in New Jersey Domestic Violence Cases
A temporary restraining order (TRO) is a court-issued order that stops a domestic abuser from having certain types of contact with the victim.
Definition of Domestic Violence
In general, domestic violence is defined as harmful acts used by one person to control the other. These acts may include physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, intentional isolation and/or financial control. The abuser may be a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend or someone the person has had a past dating relationship with. The abuser also can be someone in a position of authority, like a caretaker or even a parent. Domestic violence can occur regardless of the ages or sexual orientation of the victim and abuser and happens across all races, ethnicities and religions.
Given the broadness of the definition of domestic violence, the law draws a narrower definition. Under the New Jersey Code, domestic violence is defined as the commission of one of the following crimes against someone protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19):
What is a Temporary Restraining Order?
A temporary restraining order (TRO), sometimes referred to as a "protective order" or "order of protection," is a court-issued order that stops a domestic abuser from having certain types of contact with the victim.
This may include ordering the abuser to leave a home or apartment shared with the victim as well as ordering the abuser to stay away from the victim's workplace. The order also may order the abuser to cease all types of contact with the victim, including in-person, telephone, email and written contact. The abuser also may be prevented from using another person to contact or communicate with the victim on his or her behalf. A TRO can protect not only the victim, but also any children the victim shares with the abuser and any other household members.
The judge also may award temporary custody of any children to the victim and order the abuser to pay child support and spousal support. If the victim and abuser are not married, the court may order the abuser to pay the household expenses. The court also can require the abuser to pay for any expenses related to the abuse, like medical expenses and lost wages.
As part of the protective order, the judge can order the abuser to attend domestic violence and/or drug and alcohol counseling. The judge also has the authority to prohibit the abuser from owning or possessing any firearms.
Basically, the judge can include any measure that is necessary for the victim's protection in the TRO.
TRO Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for a TRO in New Jersey, the victim must be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor (i.e. someone under 18 who is married, pregnant or has a minor child, in the military or otherwise legally declared emancipated).
The abuser also must be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor. If the abuser is a minor, then a TRO cannot be issued against him or her. The matter will have to be handled as a juvenile delinquency case.
The victim and the abuser must have one of the following types of relationships:
Lastly, the abuser must have committed a domestic violence act against the victim.
Filing a Temporary Restraining Order
There are three types of restraining orders available to New Jersey victims of domestic violence: temporary restraining orders, emergency orders and final restraining orders.
Normally, if a victim would like to file for a temporary protection order, he or she may do so at normal business hours at the Family Division of the Superior Court. A judge then will consider the victim's application (referred to as a "complaint") and determine whether the circumstances warrant issuing a temporary restraining order. Some of the factors the judge may consider include: any history of domestic violence, whether the victim is in immediate danger, the best interests of the victim and any children the victim may have and the level of protection that is needed to safeguard the victim.
If the victim is in immediate threat of danger and would like to file for a TRO, but it is after normal working hours at the courthouse, on the weekend or during a holiday, then the victim can file for an emergency order at the local police station. The police then will contact an on-call judge on the victim's behalf to request the order. The emergency order only is meant to provide the victim with protection until he or she can file for a TRO with the court.
Final restraining orders
Within 10 days of issuing the TRO, the victim and the abuser will be required to return to court so the judge can determine whether to issue a final restraining order. At the hearing, the judge will give the victim and the abuser an opportunity to tell their story. Both parties can have a lawyer accompany them during the hearing and may bring witnesses and other evidence to substantiate their claims. The judge will then determine whether the circumstances warrant extending the restraining order and for how long. If there is no end date, then the TRO can last forever or until one party petitions the court to end it.
Contact an Attorney
TROs are civil actions, not criminal. Victims of domestic violence may file a criminal complaint against their abuser for any crimes they have committed. Additionally, once the court has issued a TRO or final restraining order, the abuser can be held in criminal contempt of court for violating any of the provisions of the order.
An attorney experienced in handling domestic violence cases and temporary restraining orders can be an invaluable resource in guiding you through your case. For more information, contact an experienced attorney today.
New Jersey has five types of spousal support. Rehabilitative alimony is a short-term monetary award that allows a spouse to go back to school or obtain training to re-enter the workforce. Limited duration alimony is awarded in cases of a short marriage when rehabilitative alimony doesn't apply. Reimbursement alimony is awarded when one spouse makes a personal sacrifice so that the other spouse could receive professional or career training. Alimony pendente lite is awarded when a divorce is pending so that both parties can maintain their current standard of living until a final judgment is made. Finally, there is permanent alimony which is usually appropriate in long term marriages and typically terminates upon the death of either party or remarriage.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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