When Will a Court Lift a Restraining Order in New Jersey?
Process for Dissolving a Restraining Order in NJ
Dissolving a restraining order in New Jersey is not as simple as waiting for an expiration date or signing a piece of paper. The person who wants the restraining order dismissed must demonstrate to the court that there is good cause to dissolve the order. If the person who originally obtained the restraining order consents to lifting the order voluntarily, the process of dissolving a restraining order can be easier. However, this is not always the case. In the absence of the alleged victim’s consent, you need to show good cause to get a restraining order lifted. If you are seeking help with lifting a restraining order in New Jersey, we encourage you to contact our firm for a free consultation. Our attorneys extensive knowledge and experience in this area and we can provide answers regarding your specific situation. Contact us at (201)-556-1570 for a free initial phone consultation or set up an appointment at one of our convenient offices located throughout New Jersey.
Why Restraining Orders are Issued in New Jersey
Any person who meets the criteria for a domestic violence victim can seek a restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. A restraining order can be granted by a Superior Court if it finds that there has been an act of domestic violence and that the alleged victim needs protection. The Final Restraining Order sets forth the person who is to be protected and orders another person to stay away from that person. The Order further directs the person not to have any contact with the alleged victim except as provided for in the Order. The Restraining Order remains in effect forever or until a court dissolves the order upon a showing of good cause.
Establishing Reasons for Lifting a Restraining Order in NJ
In the case of Carfagno v. Carfagno (Carfagno v. Carfagno, 672 A. 2d 751 – NJ: Superior Court, Chancery Div. 1995), the court decided and addressed when it would be appropriate to dissolve a restraining order upon the request of the defendant or the person against whom the order of protection was issued. Prior to this case, the court had never discussed how the court should decide whether to dissolve a restraining order at the request of a defendant.
In Carfagno, the court held that a restraining order could be dissolved only upon a showing of good cause by the moving party. In this case, Mrs. Carfagno obtained a restraining order in 1992 against her husband after she established that he harassed her and that she was in fear for her own safety. Specifically, the court found that the husband called her four times a day, came to her house, followed her, and harassed her on a daily basis. The court issued the restraining order for her protection. Then, Mr. Carfagno violated the restraining order and was found in contempt twice for having contact with her in contravention to the order.
Sometime between the initial issuance of the restraining order and the contempt, Mr. Carfagno obtained an order against Mrs. Carfagno. While the mutual orders were in place, in 1995, Mr. Carfagno filed to lift or dissolve the order against him. He noted that the order was no longer necessary, that Ms. Carfagno was no longer in fear of him, that they mutually unintentionally violated the orders, and that he needed the order lifted to obtain employment with a police department.
Mrs. Carfagno opposed the dismissal and stated that the order was necessary. She argued that she continued to be in fear, that he violated the order and had several contempt charges, and that he only wanted the FRO lifted to obtain employment. She further advised the court that they did not presently get along and still argued. Due to the opposing positions, the court held a plenary hearing and heard testimony from both parties.
What Constitutes Good Cause to Dissolve a Restraining Order?
Upon hearing the Carfagno case, the court set forth and applied 11 factors in determining whether a person has established good cause to vacate the restraining order. After considering the factors, the court maintained the Carfagno restraining order in place. In the process, the court first considered whether Mrs. Carfagno was in fear of her ex-husband and whether she opposed the order. They also considered the relationship between the parties and the number of the defendant’s violations of the order. Additionally, the court noted that there are factors that other courts should take into account when considering whether to vacate an order, such as: proof of counseling on behalf of the moving party, a lack of drug or alcohol use, any other acts of domestic violence, whether there is another order of protection in existence to assist the Plaintiff, the age and health of the defendant, and any other relevant factors.
In cases prior to Carfagno in which both parties wanted to vacate the order, there was little need for an extensive plenary hearing. Now, more than ever, the court will apply the factors delineated in Carfagno and scrutinize any application to dissolve a restraining order. Keep in mind, these cases are very complex in terms of the evidence and procedure involved. Whether you are the person seeking to lift a final restraining order or you are contesting someone else’s motion to remove the FRO, you should consider seeking assistance from a knowledgeable attorney.
Who Can Help Lift a Restraining Order in New Jersey?
If you are involved in a case to dismiss a restraining order in New Jersey, protect yourself and your interests by contact our team of lawyers handling restraining orders today. We will vigorously represent you on either side of a hearing to vacate the restraining order and fight for your desired result.