Restraining Order Information and Court Preparation

Victims of domestic violence can file for legal protection against an abuser.
This protection is called a restraining order.

 

The legal system can be complicated; however our agency can help you navigate the court system and explain what options you have available. While we are not lawyers, we can explain the rights provided by temporary and final restraining orders. If you decide to file a restraining order, we can walk you through the process from start to finish. We offer extensive court preparation, as well as referrals to experienced family law attorneys if needed.

 

Whether or not you decide a restraining order is the right choice, our agency has services available that can support you. In addition to legal advocacy, we provide individual and group counseling in English or Spanish, safety planning and emergency shelter. We also have a 24-hour helpline that you can call with any questions.

 

Restraining Order Protections
  • Prohibits contact between you and the abuser. Contact means all communications, including in person, by phone, by e-mail, and through social media. Communications also includes third party messages, i.e., if a friend or family member passes on a message from the abuser to you.

  • Can also regulate contact between the abuser and your family members, friends and other protected parties.

  • Orders the abuser to leave a shared residence.

  • Seizes any weapons from the abuser.

  • In most cases grants temporary custody of shared children to you as the person who filed the restraining order.

  • Prevents the abuser from entering the home without a police escort.

  • May order the abuser to pay overdue bills, provide money for medical treatment, replenish loss of earnings, etc. that stemmed from the abuse.

  • May also order professional domestic violence counseling, a drug evaluation, and/or a psychiatric evaluation for the abuser.

  • The judge has the power to order other protections as well.
     

Consent Order vs. Restraining Order

  • A consent order is an agreement between you and the abuser, usually introduced when one or both parties has retained a lawyer. The consent order can include civil restraints, like rules regarding parenting time and monetary issues, as well as restrict communications between the plaintiff and defendant.

  • A consent order, like a restraining order, is signed by a judge. However, it does not carry the same level of protection as a restraining order. A violation of a consent order doesn’t result in an immediate response by the police. Instead, a violation of a consent order must be addressed by filing a motion in court, and the violator may only have to pay a fine.

  • A violation of a restraining order is a criminal act (a much harsher offense) and will result in an arrest. A second violation of a restraining order is mandatory jail time.

  • Ultimately, violating a consent order has less severe repercussions than violating a restraining order.  Protection awarded by a restraining order is much greater.

 

How to Apply for a Temporary Restraining Order

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) can be applied for at the Family Division of the Superior Court, located at the Warren County Courthouse in Belvidere, Monday- Friday, between 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.  All other days and times, including holidays, restraining order applications can be filled out at any local police station. Either way, a judge will hear the restraining order application, either in person or over the phone.

 

How to Fill Out the Restraining Order
  • Be specific as possible when explaining the incident of abuse.

  • Describe the most recent act of domestic violence, known as the predicate act, with as much detail as possible.

    • For example, say “we were in the kitchen and he pushed me in the shoulder” instead of “he pushed me.”

  • When asked about prior history of abuse, please include dates and times of incidents. If there was ongoing abuse, for example he called me a “(insert name)” every day other day for 3 years, state that as well.

  • With one’s history please provide a chronological timeline, for example: on this day___ at this time___ this happened___. (A month or a season in which the incidence happened, will also suffice.)

  • The domestic violence can have either been reported and/or unreported to the police.

  • Remember: Domestic abuse is not only physical violence; harassment, threats, stalking, burglary, damaging property etc. Can be included in the “prior history of abuse” section on the restraining order form.

  • It is important to be as specific and detailed as possible because during the Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing, you can only talk about what is written on the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).

  • After the paperwork is done, the judge will determine whether a TRO is necessary. If you are granted the TRO, the abuser will be served a copy.

 

Finalizing a Temporary Restraining Order
Court Hearing
  • To finalize your restraining order, you must appear in court on the date indicated on the TRO.

    • Final restraining order hearing, (FRO) will usually be no more than 10 days after the initial filing.

    • The abuser is also required to show up in court for the hearing.

    • Plaintiffs should arrive by 8:30 am at the Warren County Courthouse at 413 Second Street in Belvidere, NJ.

    • There are often multiple cases heard on Thursdays so it is possible that you will be at the courthouse all day to wait for your turn, please plan accordingly.

    • Children are NOT allowed in domestic violence court so you will need to arrange childcare.

  • During the FRO hearing the judge will decide whether to finalize the restraining order or dismiss the restraining order.

  • The hearing is essentially a mini-trial, where both you and the abuser testify as to what happened. Both parties have the option to hire a lawyer and or to represent themselves, either option is perfectly acceptable. 

  • Evidence can be shown to support one’s case.

    • Evidence includes witnesses (i.e.: family, friends or police officers who saw the abuse), photographs of injuries and/or damage caused by the incident, text messages, voicemail messages, e-mails, social networking communications, and notarized/authenticated medical records.

  • During the hearing be as specific as possible when explaining incidents of domestic abuse, including incidents and dates.

  • Remember: Explain any fears and safety concerns you have due to the abuser. The judge is looking to see if there is a need for protection under the law.

  • After the plaintiff’s testimony, both parties will have the opportunity to ask questions through the judge.

  • It is important to talk about what is documented in the restraining order, and Avoid discussion of custody and/or financial issues and focus on the current incidents and prior history.

  • If the restraining order is granted, the judge will address topics including; custody, child support and finances etc. at the end of the hearing.

 

Financial Support and Custody
  • If a Final Restraining Order (FRO) is granted, the judge will hear concerns about finances, parenting time and other support issues. During this portion of the hearing, you may ask for financial support. Financial support includes money for rent, household expenses, insurance, etc.

  • The FRO can also provide for a way to discuss issues concerning shared children, either directly with the abuser through e-mail or text or through a third party.

  • If there are shared children between the two parties, you can also request a change in parenting time and custody, and can request supervised visitation.

 
After an FRO is Granted
  • After the hearing, the court will provide you with a copy of the FRO. Carry the restraining order at all times and leave copies at work, family members’ houses, children’s schools, and any other common places.

 
Additional RO Concerns
You Want to Add Information to the TRO Before the Final Hearing
  • If you would like to include additional incidences on the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), you can go to the Family Division at the Warren County Courthouse in Belvidere to amend, or add to, the complaint. Once the complaint is amended, the courts need to re-serve the defendant, which may delay the court date.

 

Either You or the Abuser Don’t Show Up for Court
  • The court will do a wellness check if the victim does not show up on the scheduled hearing date; a court employee may call the victim’s house or a police officer may show up at the residence.

  • If the abuser does not appear at the hearing, the judge will either continue the temporary order until the abuser can be brought into court, or hold the hearing without the abuser present.

 

The Judge Denies the Final Restraining Order
  • If the judge denies the final restraining order, all of the protections and relief granted in the temporary order are dismissed. You do have the option to appeal the decision through the Superior Court in Belvidere.

  • If another instance of domestic violence occurs, you may file for another TRO. A denied or dismissed restraining order does not affect any future restraining orders.

 

The Abuser Violates the Restraining Order
  • A violation of a restraining order is a criminal offense. Call 911 or a local police department to report the violation. If the violation involves failure to return personal property, failure to pay support or rent, not complying with custody or visitation conditions, or failing to attend domestic violence counseling, call Family Division at 908-475-6150.