Being the victim of domestic violence or abuse is something no one should have to go through. Unfortunately, the process New Jersey has in place to obtain a restraining order against your abuser—at times—can be quite confusing.
Therefore, we have designed the following information to help you better understand how to file for a restraining order in New Jersey and successfully navigate the process.
Initial Steps to Obtain a Restraining Order
There are a couple initial steps that you must follow in order to get the ball rolling. First and foremost, you need to go down to your local courthouse, find where the Family Division is, and ask the receptionist for the paperwork you need to fill out to file for a restraining order.
Remember, you must file your application with the court of the town:
- where you live
- where the abuser lives,
- where the harassment took place. (If it is an emergency, you can go to the local police department or call 911. They can provide you with the necessary forms and contact a judge for you.)
Next, you need to carefully fill out the application. It is vital that you provide as many details as possible, including descriptive words to help explain the behavior and conduct of the abuser. For example, make sure to use words such as “kicked,” “slapped,” or “choked” (so long as they are applicable). If you recall direct quotes that the abuser said, write them down too. The more details you provide, the more successfully you can paint a mental picture in the mind of the judge of the incident.
Intermediary Steps to Obtain a Restraining Order
After you completed the requisite application forms, it is time to go to court. Make sure to bring the application form with you (along with identification) and go back to the Family Division of the local courthouse where you originally received the application. Hand the completed form back to the receptionist.
Sometimes the receptionist will require you to sign the application form in front of him or her, so do not sign the form until you get to court.
Furthermore, bring with you any information you have concerning the abuser that may help you get your restraining order. For instance, if you have pictures of injuries or evidence of abuse, be sure to include those in your application (as long as the court lets you).
Also, it is important to provide additional information about the abuser for the judge who will be reviewing your application. This could include a picture of him or her, his or her place of work, address, e-mail, etc.
If the judge determines that you are in immediate danger of further harm, he or she will grant you a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that will be valid until your full hearing (i.e. usually 10 days later).
Final Steps to Obtain a Restraining Order
In order to receive a Final Restraining Order (FRO), you will have to come back to court for your full hearing.
Be prepared: your abuser will be present at the hearing. It is his constitutional right. He will likely have an attorney present as well. Consequently, you should be sure to hire an experienced attorney who has had success in obtaining Final Restraining Orders (FROs) in New Jersey.
At your hearing, it will be vital to do everything in your power to provide the judge with concrete evidence. You will need to show (among other things) proof of injury and that the abuser in fact was the one who caused the injury. Police reports, photographs of injuries or prior attacks, and eyewitness testimony can (and should) be used to help you make your case.
Furthermore, if your abuser fails to show up, the judge may push off the hearing and reschedule it. If this happens, be sure to request that the judge extend your TRO! (Failing to make such a request could allow your abuser to contact you again).
At the hearing, your attorney will present your side of the story to the best of his or her abilities and your abuser will have an opportunity to respond. Lastly, the judge will issue a final ruling. If you are granted a Final Restraining Order (FRO), be sure to have it with you at all times. It just might literally be your lifeline.