Forms of Relief Available in Restraining Orders
Companion Court Orders for Domestic Violence Victims in New Jersey
The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act was enacted with the primary goal of protecting victims from abuse, torture, and control. Domestic violence is rarely an isolated event but rather, consists of a pattern or cycle of manipulation and dominance by the perpetrator. Moreover, until the early 1990s, claims associated with domestic violence were not taken very seriously by law enforcement or our judicial system. Eventually, our society evolved and grew to understand the nature of such offenses and the plight that many victims experienced. Consequently, robust legislation was passed, and true victims were offered a wide array of protection. Beyond the prohibition of contact in any way from the defendant, who is at risk of criminal charges if he or she violates the protection order, there are other available forms of relief for domestic violence victims in New Jersey. For example, the court may include orders related to financial support, child support, child custody, and parenting time. Here, we provide more details about what is available to victims of domestic violence in NJ. If you would like to discuss a restraining order case with a knowledgeable attorney who can advise and assist you, call (201)-556-1570 or contact us online now for a free consultation.
Protection in the Form of TRO’s and FRO’s
First and utmost, the Domestic Violence Act prohibits the offender from contacting the victim in any manner. It forbids all in person contact, all electronic forms of communication, and prohibits any third party from contacting the plaintiff on behalf of the defendant. Additionally, it mandates the immediate removal of the defendant from the home and bars him or her from returning. Even if the defendant owns the residence and has nowhere else to seek shelter, the defendant must leave. The Act prohibits in-house restraining orders. On top of that, the offender is forbidden from visiting other locations such as the plaintiff’s place or work, schools, the homes of family members, or any other property the plaintiff may visit. Lastly, the court can require the perpetrator to surrender any firearms and permits he or she may possess and may order the defendant to attend counseling.
The Act also authorizes the court to award the plaintiff monetary support. The court can award the plaintiff money for loss of earnings, out-of-pocket expenses for any injuries, property damage, attorney fees, moving expenses, counseling costs, and compensation for any pain and suffering. Moreover, in order to ensure the plaintiff is not deterred from taking action due to monetary fears, the Judge can direct the defendant to pay for housing expenses such as rent, mortgage payments, automobile expenses, and health insurance costs. Id. Further, the court can issue a fine between $50 and $500.
Sadly, many victims of domestic violence share a child or children with the offender. In that same vein, it has also become clear over time that the sight of domestic violence has a tremendous impact on a child’s well-being. Consequently, the Act offers relief for parents. Specifically, the judge hearing the case can suspend parenting time or require supervised visitation. The court can also order the defendant to maintain health insurance for the children and pay any necessary expenses.
Lastly, the Judge can execute an order compelling the defendant-parent to pay child support. Under New Jersey law, both parents must financially support their children. It does not matter if one parent has prevented the other parent from seeing the child or if one parent was not even aware that a child existed in the first place. It is the strong public policy of the State to protect the well-being of children. Consequently, parents are required to support their children. The child support system is designed to mirror and emulate as close as it can to what the child or children would receive in support if the parents were married. To reach this end, the courts utilize the child support guidelines, which is a formula designed to reflect what the child would be receiving in monetary support if the parents were together or the household was intact.
The guidelines combine the gross income of both parents to determine the total income of the household. From there, there are certain deductions that are removed from the sum such as taxes, mandatory retirement contributions, other support orders, and any other expense that must be taken out of a person’s salary. The idea is to accurately show what each parent is taking home financially and how much money could be contributed towards the child or children. Next, the court will determine how many overnights each parent will have. The support paid is supposed to replicate what the child would be receiving if the parent was present. Thus, support is credited to a parent when the child is in their custody because it is assumed that the parent is paying for the child’s expenses already, such as food and clothing. In addition, the judge may award credit for payments towards day care, aftercare, and the child’s healthcare.
Based upon the formula outlined in the guidelines, the court will award a weekly support payment. However, the guidelines are not an exact science. The premise is to place the child in as a close of a financial position he or she could be if the parents were together. Moreover, because we are dealing with innocent children, the court will error on the side of providing more support to ensure the interest of the child is best served.
Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support if I’m Unemployed?
Furthermore, many parents assume if they are not working, they do not have to pay support. That is not the case. If a parent is unemployed, the family judge can impute income. Meaning, the court can assign a gross income to the non-working parent, even if he or she is not actually earning any money. The same applies to a parent who may be underemployed. Thus, if a parent is receiving an income but it is less than what they should be earning, the court can increase the parent’s gross wages. The purpose of imputing income is to prevent parents from purposefully earning no money or less money in order to avoid child support. Additionally, the family courts want to protect innocent children and therefore, will enter orders compelling a parent to provide a certain level of support that the judge believes the child should be receiving.
NJ Help for Restraining Order & Family Law Matters
With all of this in mind, if you or someone you know are in need of legal assistance concerning a family matter or restraining order in New Jersey, please contact our office for a free consultation. Our attorneys assist clients in Bergen County, Morris County, Essex County, Passaic County, and throughout the state, and we encourage you to call us at (201)-556-1570 for answers to your specific questions.