“Without legal representation at your FRO hearing, a temporary restraining order can easily become a final restraining order, which will have long-term consequences for you and your family.”
Restraining Order Attorney Needed Bergen County? Contact Us Now
Do you need help fighting a false restraining order issued against you in Bergen County? Do you have a final restraining order hearing scheduled in court in Hackensack? Contact us for help.
Travis J. Tormey recently represented a client at a Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing in the Bergen County Superior Court, located in Hackensack, NJ. Our client was a girl in her early twenties who was dating a young man whose parents did not approve of the relationship. She was often over at his house, prompting his father to continually throw her out of the house because he did not approve of their dating. Then, the father filed a restraining order against her to try to keep her out of the house for good.
Restraining Order Filed Against Me, What am I Looking At?
A restraining order is a civil matter in New Jersey, not criminal, but it is serious. Once a person files a restraining order against you (either at the court or the police department), you must be served with the paperwork. That paperwork will detail any and all restrictions placed on you which include the following:
- Defendant can not contact the Plaintiff in any form
- Defendant can not have others contact the Plaintiff on their behalf
- Defendant is prohibited from the Plaintiff’s home, work, and any other places designated on the TRO
- If the parties reside together the Defendant is prohibited from the home until the case is resolved. If dismissed, they can return. If final restraining order issued, they can not return.
- Any temporary custody, parenting time, child support, and visitation can be addressed
These temporary restraining orders become final if the Judge finds enough evidence and then they stay with you forever. In NJ, unlike in some other states like NY and PA, final restraining orders (FRO) are permanent. In addition, you are fingerprinted and placed into a database for domestic violence offenders. You are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. This final restraining order could have other collateral consequences effecting things like employment, professional licenses, and immigration status. Finally, if you are accused of violating the restraining order, you will be arrested and charged with criminal contempt. As you can see, it is imperative that you avoid a permanent restraining order being issued against you in NJ at all costs.
Where will my restraining order case be held?
It will be handled in the Family Division of the Superior Court where the restraining order was filed. These cases are handled by a Family court judge and one of three things will happen with the case:
- The Plaintiff will dismiss the case voluntarily
- The Plaintiff will dismiss the case and enter into a civil restraints agreement with the Defendant
- The case will proceed to trial and either the final restraining order will be granted or denied
Am I entitled to a free attorney?
No. These are not criminal cases so there is not a public defender available if you qualify. If you are a plaintiff (victim), there are some victims rights groups who may be able to provide you with an attorney without any cost. You can also represent yourself at trial.
What kind of evidence can I present at the restraining order trial?
Any relevant evidence that shows that an act of domestic violence occurred, that there is a prior history of domestic violence between the parties, and that the Plaintiff is reasonable to be in fear for their safety. This evidence can include the following:
- Testimony of the Plaintiff
- Testimony of any witnesses who have first hand knowledge of any incidents (they saw it themselves)
- Emails, phone messages, texts, social media posts, voicemails
- Pictures of injuries
- Hospital records
- Police reports
All of this evidence will be considered by the Judge when determining whether or not to issue a permanent restraining order in New Jersey.
How does the restraining order trial work?
The Plaintiff has the burden of proof and goes first. They can testify and admit any evidence they have which the court deems relevant. The defendant (or their attorney if they have one) can then cross examine the Plaintiff and question them regarding any evidence provided. Then, the Defendant can testify (if they choose) and admit their own evidence. Once both parties are finished, the Judge will decide if the Plaintiff has proven by a preponderance of evidence (more likely than not) that an act of domestic violence occurred, that there is a prior history of this violence between the parties, and that a restraining order is necessary to protect the Plaintiff in the future.
What happens if a final restraining order is issued?
A final restraining order in New Jersey is permanent and never expires. The defendant is fingerprinted and placed into a statewide database for domestic violence offenders. They are prohibited from contacting the Plaintiff in any way or having someone contact them on their behalf. If they violate the restraining order they will be arrested and charged criminally with contempt. On a second restraining order violation, there is mandatory incarceration.
No Standing Under the Domestic Violence Act – Not a Protected Party
In this case, the father did not have standing under the Domestic Violence Act to file a restraining order against her because they were not related, they never dated, and they never lived together. Although his attorney tried to argue that her staying over at their house a few times constituted living together, the judge did not agree and dismissed the restraining order based on a lack of standing for the plaintiff.
See, sometimes people try to use restraining orders as a sword rather than a shield and in ways that the law was not intended. People use them as leverage in divorces, custody proceedings, or, in this case, to try and remove a girl from their son’s life that they didn’t improve of. Luckily, the Judge saw this for what it was and dismissed the case.
As you can see, you can’t file a temporary restraining order (TRO) against just anyone in New Jersey. You must have had a qualifying relationship with them in order to have standing to file the restraining order. Otherwise, you can try and file criminal charges for harassment, simple assault, terroristic threats or whatever crimes apply in your case.
What happens when a restraining order is dismissed?
Once the case is dismissed, all the restrictions are removed. In addition, there is no record of it that needs to be expunged (like an arrest or a criminal charge). However, if another restraining order was filed in future, there is a record that a restraining order was filed before and dismissed.
Beat a Restraining Order in Bergen County with the Tormey Law Firm
This was a very satisfying result for both the client and the Tormey Law Firm. For additional information on restraining orders in New Jersey, check out our resource center or call us anytime for a free initial consultation.