Does a Restraining Order Last Forever in New Jersey?
The New Jersey legislature has taken a severe approach to domestic violence by enacting strict laws against perpetrators of domestic abuse. As an eye-opening example, permanent restraining orders in New Jersey have no expirations dates.
Restraining orders are first temporary (TRO), obtained from a judge on an emergency basis. Domestic violence is often an emergency, and so relief is ordered liberally if a victim accuses a loved one, family member, dating partner or ex, spouse or former spouse, or other qualifying individual of abuse and endangerment. From harassment and stalking to simple assault, sexual assault and criminal restraint, domestic violence allegations are made daily throughout New Jersey. This is why restraining orders are so prevalent across the state, authorized by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which affords victims access to the courts for protection. Keep in mind, the first restraining order is basically a form of intervention before the case can ultimately be decided. If one was ordered, an alleged victim of domestic violence secures a temporary order of protection prohibiting the defendant from contacting or coming near them. The TRO is ordered without the defendant’s presence in court, so they don’t get to defend themselves at this point in the case. The person subject to the restraining order has to be served with a notice, which lists the final hearing date.
If a restraining order becomes permanent in NJ, will it apply for the rest of my life?
The final restraining order (FRO) is approved upon a more expansive showing of proof with the defendant present in court. At the final hearing, the defendant can challenge the victim or plaintiff’s evidence against them or show how the plaintiff is lying or has ulterior motives in seeking the order. If they do not convince a judge, however, the TRO becomes final (FRO) and remains in effect permanently. That is, until someone comes back to court to terminate it, a distinct possibility if you have help from an experienced restraining order attorney who knows how to fight protection orders in New Jersey courts and how to go about getting a permanent restraining order removed once issued.
A restraining order may haunt you for the rest of your life.
Since the FRO orders the defendant to keep their distance from the victim, the defendant cannot come around the victim’s usual locations, like work, school, residence, and children’s babysitters, school, or friends’ homes. Anywhere the victim typically goes, the person subjected to the order must stay away. Even if they both randomly show up in the same public place, the person faced with the permanent order against them is best advised to leave, as they are the one possibly violating the order and going to jail. And if you are applying for U.S. residency or citizenship, your application may be denied based on a restraining order and conviction for domestic violence.
While an order is in effect, the person subject to the FRO cannot own or possess a firearm. A restraining order may end a military career, though it is not necessarily a bar to other types of employment. A restraining order also comes with an order for firearms to be removed from the defendant’s home or person while the order is in effect, which can be a lifetime. Even if the restraining order is ultimately lifted, it doesn’t automatically mean the defendant can get their guns back. This often requires a separate proceeding to have any confiscated weapons returned.
In addition, a restrained party may be barred from schools, offices, homes, bars, restaurants, or other private and public spaces where the victim happens to be.
Not only are restraining orders permanent, but they are easy to violate.
A single phone call, text, or letter may violate an order forbidding contact with the protected party. And the consequences of violating a protection order can be devastating: jail time, loss of employment and restricted visitation with children are just some of the possible results of a violated order. A restraining order, though a civil matter handled in family court, can turn into a criminal conviction if the defendant violates the purpose and intent of the restraining order. Restraining orders are intended to protect victims from their abusers, requiring the person to stay away from the victim at their residence, work, school, or anywhere they routinely go.
A restrained individual is typically a spouse, partner, household member, lover, or ex. They may have children with the victim. For instance, an order may require a father to visit their children under supervision or not at all. As such, they may feel they can continue contacting the other party by harassing, stalking, or even merely texting them about seeing the kids. These are all violations of a restraining order and may land a violator in contempt of the order, with penalties and fines ensuing. They may go to jail. Notably, an FRO violation is a separate crime from any underlying domestic violence offense that warranted the protective order, and multiple violations lead to longer sentences and higher fines.
A restraining order doesn’t go away if you move
You cannot even move away to avoid the reach of a protective order. Restraining orders remain in effect even if the defendant or plaintiff moves. Other states honor and will enforce the restraining order. So, if you follow your ex to another state, they can contact the local police if you show up at their door or work. Once restrained, the defendant is fingerprinted, photographed, and named in a registry of domestic violence offenders. Law enforcement in any jurisdiction can access an Internet database of those named and pictured with domestic violence convictions.
There is no escape from an existing order of protection, and a named defendant to a restraining order is best off if they obey the order while it applies and then hire an attorney to get the FRO terminated.
You still need to get the protection order dissolved if you reconcile
Many people with existing restraining orders choose to reconcile at a later date, especially for the sake of their children. However, restraining orders can only be terminated via an order by the court. Even if you and the other party decide to get back together or resume your familial or personal relationship, the order remains in effect and enforceable until you petition the court to have it lifted. You may both come to court to request that the judge terminate the FRO, but this isn’t an automatic process or always granted.
To terminate the FRO, the requesting party must file a motion in family court and appear before the judge, who will be looking at the plaintiff and wanting to rule out any signs of coercion. Does the defendant still hold sway over the will of the plaintiff? A judge will not grant the motion to end the permanent protection order if they believe the plaintiff is not freely requesting the dismissal.
A lawyer can help you get the lifetime restrictions of a protection order lifted
The defendant in a restraining order case can file a Carfagno motion (named after a case titled Carfagno vs. Carfagno) to get the FRO dismissed. The judge weighs the request to lift the restraining order by examining the plaintiff’s wishes, the continuing safety risk the defendant poses to the plaintiff, the number of FRO violations, and the defendant’s substance abuse or addiction status, if any. A judge may scrutinize the motion, looking for evidence of the nature of the relationship at the time of the motion. The judge may also question the motive of a plaintiff who may not be opposing the motion in good faith.
More importantly, the judge evaluates the potential for harm should the FRO end. Factors like the defendant’s age, violent incidences with other individuals, or restraining orders in other jurisdictions may show a defendant is dangerous and should continue to be restrained. However, if the defendant is older, has undergone counseling, and/or their offenses were years ago, among other compelling reasons, the judge may not find them a threat and grant the motion.
Make sure you choose the right attorney to handle your restraining order case
Since a restraining order is a civil family law matter with criminal implications, it is essential to choose the right attorney to help you make your motion for FRO removal or defend against restraining order finalization. When choosing the best lawyer to handle your case, be aware that you should enlist one who has extensive knowledge about both the criminal and family law legal systems as it pertains to protection orders and violations. A lifelong order is likely to cause trouble for you eventually, so you do not want to risk making mistakes that cost you a restraining order or a failed motion to dismiss a restraining order by representing yourself. Seek out an attorney who has experience persuading judges to look favorably on the accused’s side of the story.
When it comes to restraining order defense, motions to be removed, violations, and the many criminal charges and related matters in cases of domestic violence, The Tormey Law Firm has an established track record of success. To speak to an attorney regarding your case and what can be done to best protect your interests, contact us online or call (201)-556-1570 today. This free consultation could be your first step toward moving on with your life if a restraining order threatens to derail your future.