In New Jersey, having a restraining order placed against you is serious business. Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, a victim need only tell the police, or a judge that they’ve been harassed, assaulted, or otherwise victimized, and a Temporary Restraining Order will be issued even without hearing your side. This order can prevent you from staying at your home, seeing your kids, or communicating in any way with your spouse or partner.
While restraining orders aren’t technically criminal, they are issued when a victim alleges that certain criminal acts have occurred; however, unlike in criminal court where the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, a victim of domestic violence need only prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard equates to more likely than not. Acts that are defined as domestic violence include harassment, assault, criminal mischief, stalking, and other more serious crimes.
Once a Temporary Restraining Order has been issued, you will be required to appear before a Superior Court Judge within 10 days. This judge will determine whether the restraining order will become final. Final Restraining Orders are forever. Generally, the only way a Final Restraining Order can be dismissed is if the victim physically goes to the Superior Court and asks the judge to dismiss the order. This is why it is so important to get it right the first time.
In order to get a Final Restraining Order, the victim must be, one, a former or present household member, two, have a child in common, or three, have been in a dating relationship with he accused. At the final hearing, the victim must prove two things, that an act of domestic violence occurred and that there has been a history or domestic violence.
This is a very important point, just because a single act of domestic violence is proved to the court, that does not mean that a Final Restraining Order will be issued unless the act of domestic violence was extremely serious, the victim will also have to prove that there has been a history of domestic violence. This is often done by providing evidence of past arrests or prior restraining orders. While the court does not require that prior acts be reported to the police, it is often hard to prove that these acts occurred if the victim never told anyone.
If a Final Restraining Order is issued, the judge can provide a broad range or remedies. He can order that you not return to your house or apartment, that you have no contact with your spouse or partner, that you have no or limited contact with your children, and that you pay reasonable expanses such as your partner’s rent or legal fees. Additionally, the presence of a Final Restraining Order will appear in a background check, and persons who have a restraining order against them are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.