Domestic Violence Protections in New Jersey
Unfortunately, domestic violence impacts the lives of too many people every day. In response to high incidence of domestic violence, the New Jersey legislature passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to provide long-term civil and criminal remedies to domestic violence victims. Both domestic violence victims and alleged domestic violence offenders should speak with a domestic violence lawyer to protect themselves and their rights.
How do I get a Temporary Restraining Order?
A victim of domestic violence can seek emergent relief in the form of a temporary restraining order to protect themselves from abuse, harassment, and other acts of domestic violence. To obtain a restraining order, the plaintiff must file a complaint against their abuser with a New Jersey Family Court or municipal judge. Both family court and municipal judges have the authority to issue a temporary restraining order if “the plaintiff is in danger of domestic violence” and the temporary restraining order is “necessary to protect the life, health or well-being of a victim on whose behalf the relief is sought.” In addition to prohibiting contact between the parties, the temporary restraining order may include provisions forbidding the defendant from occupying the same residence as the domestic violence victim and possessing any firearm or other weapon.
How do I get a Final Restraining Order?
A temporary restraining order does not equate to a finding that an act of domestic violence occurred. The defendant must be given the opportunity to defend himself or herself against the allegations of domestic violence. Within 10 days of the complaint for a temporary restraining order, both parties must appear for an evidentiary hearing before a New Jersey Superior Court judge to determine whether the plaintiff is entitled to a final restraining order. To obtain a final restraining order, the plaintiff must prove he or she shares a domestic relationship with defendant, the defendant committed an act of domestic violence, and a final restraining order is necessary to prevent further acts of domestic violence. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in New Jersey list multiple predicate acts of domestic violence, which include:
- Terroristic threats;
- Criminal restraint;
- False imprisonment;
- Sexual assault;
- Criminal sexual contact;
- Criminal mischief;
- Criminal trespass;
- Criminal coercion;
- Contempt of a domestic violence order pursuant to subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:29-9 that constitutes a crime or disorderly persons offense;
- Any other crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person protected under the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991”; and
The commission of any one of the predicate acts of domestic violence above does not automatically result in the entry of a final restraining order. At the hearing, the court will consider any evidence and the testimony from both parties to determine whether the defendant committed a predicate act of domestic violence and a final restraining order is necessary to protect the victim from future acts of domestic violence. To do so, the court considers a variety of other factors prior to entering a final restraining order. These factors include:
- The previous history of domestic violence between the plaintiff and defendant, including threats, harassment and physical abuse;
- The existence of immediate danger to person or property;
- The financial circumstances of the plaintiff and defendant;
- The best interests of the victim and any child;
- In determining custody and visitation the protection of the victim’s safety; and
- The existence of a verifiable order of protection from another jurisdiction.
What are the Consequences of a Final Restraining Order?
The entry of a final restraining order has serious consequences on domestic violence offenders. The court will order the domestic violence offender to pay civil penalty and add the domestic violence offender’s name to the Domestic Violence Offender Central Registry, which may impact the defendant’s employment. In addition to adding the defendant to a Domestic Violence Offender Registry, the court may grant any relief necessary to prevent further abuse, which includes:
- an order restraining the defendant from making contact with the plaintiff;
- the exclusion of the defendant from the marital residence or premises;
- a grant of temporary custody;
- awarding, modifying, or suspending visitation with the parties’ children;
- monetary compensation for losses (including counsel fees);
- mandatory counseling for defendant; and
- an order forbidding the defendant from possessing any firearms and certain weapons.
Contact us today for a FREE consultation!
Hire a Domestic Violence Lawyer
Whether you are the victim of domestic violence or the alleged domestic violence offender, it is important to consult with a domestic violence lawyer about your case and the legal process. The presentation of evidence at the evidentiary hearing will determine whether the court enters a final restraining order for the victim or against the alleged offender. Domestic violence victims must meet their burden of proof to obtain a final restraining order and the defendant should present their own evidence to rebut the accusations of domestic violence. The Drake Law Firm domestic violence lawyers have significant trial experience related to the presentation of evidence through direct and cross-examination. Please contact our office today to discuss your case with an domestic violence lawyer and understand your rights under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.