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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Attorney in South Jersey

Domestic abuse allegations and cycles of domestic violence can be deeply damaging to relationships and families. Whether you are a victim of domestic violence or an individual accused of perpetrating domestic abuse, having a domestic violence lawyer can be essential to protecting your rights and safeguarding your home and children. 


In New Jersey, domestic violence cases are handled by the Family Court and can have consequences for parenting time, child custody, and child support. In addition to family court proceedings, there may be a companion criminal case against the alleged abuser. Depending on the circumstances, there may be criminal charges against the abuser such as aggravated assault, simple assault, sexual assault or misconduct, harassment, or criminal trespass. 


Having legal representation can make a critical difference in the outcome of your domestic violence case. A lawyer versed in criminal defense and family law can help you navigate these parallel systems and can help you successfully handle your domestic violence matter. At Ormond Law, we have experience in both the criminal and family court system and can assist you in getting the legal help you need in every aspect of a domestic violence proceeding.


How to Get a Restraining Order in New Jersey


Domestic violence restraining orders are intended to protect victims of crimes perpetrated by family members, co-parents, or romantic partners. You can request a restraining order if you and the accused are or were married; are dating or living together; or share a child together. 


If you are a domestic violence survivor, you can go to the police department or to the Family Division of the Superior Court in your town to apply for a domestic violence restraining order. If you are in immediate danger, you should call 911. 


Once you file a domestic violence complaint and apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO), a Municipal Court judge will decide whether there is a legal basis to issue the temporary order. 


As part of the temporary restraining order, the Court may order the other party to stay away from you and to refrain from contacting you through social media, by telephone, by text or email, or through third parties, such as mutual friends or family members. The Court may also award victims of domestic abuse exclusive occupancy of the home. Finally, if the parties share children together, the domestic violence Court may suspend the alleged abuser’s parenting time and award temporary sole custody to the domestic violence victim. 


A temporary restraining order will remain in effect until the court date for a Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing. It is not a permanent restraining order and is subject to judicial review at the final hearing, which is held in Superior Court. 


A final restraining order (FRO) hearing is typically scheduled within ten (10) days of the temporary restraining order being issued. At the FRO hearing, the judge will hear testimony and take evidence from both parties. Thereafter, the Court will make a decision on whether to issue an FRO. 


In order to meet the legal standard for obtaining a final restraining order, the plaintiff must show that the defendant committed a predicate act of domestic violence. This means that the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a domestic violence crime was committed and that the accused committed that crime. The crimes which qualify as predicate acts of domestic violence are enumerated in New Jersey’s domestic violence statute, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act


The plaintiff must also demonstrate that a final restraining order is necessary to protect them from immediate danger and further abuse by the accused, pursuant to the New Jersey Appellate Division’s decision in Silver v. Silver


In a Final Restraining Order hearing, the Court will consider certain statutory factors outlined in N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29

These factors include: 

  1. The history of domestic violence between the parties, including any history of threats, harassment or physical abuse 

  2. Any immediate danger to persons or property posed by the defendant 

  3. The financial circumstances of the plaintiff and defendant

  4. The best interests of the victim and the best interests of any child involved 

  5. The protection of the victim’s safety (in determining any custody and parenting time arrangements)

  6. Whether there is already an order of protection in place from another jurisdiction. 


What are the consequences of an FRO in New Jersey?


If an FRO is issued against you, there can be permanent legal consequences. An FRO is considered a final order and is very difficult to change or modify in the future, particularly if the victim does not consent to the change or modification. Once an FRO goes into effect, it generally has long lasting ramifications. New Jersey final restraining orders do not have an expiration date and persist unless the Court vacates or modifies them. 


Moreover, the consequences of an FRO can be far-reaching and substantial. 


Final restraining orders may require you to complete a substance abuse or mental health evaluation and may suspend your parenting time until such an assessment is completed. 


Depending on the circumstances and severity of the abuse, an FRO may award sole custody to the Plaintiff and seriously restrict the defendant’s custodial rights. The Defendant may only have supervised visitation with the minor children and may be required to cover the costs of any Court-appointed supervisor for their parenting time. 


Beyond child custody issues, a domestic violence defendant may be required to forfeit their firearms and may be precluded from possessing any firearms in the future. Defendants may be fined up to $500 and may be required to attend anger management, batterer’s intervention, or other forms of domestic violence counseling. 


They may be required to be fingerprinted and placed on a domestic violence registry which is visible to all court personnel and law enforcement officers. Depending on their career, being on this domestic violence registry can impact defendants’ ability to secure a job or continue in their chosen field of employment. Particularly for those in the military, the issuance of a restraining order can seriously damage your ability to continue in the armed forces. 


Finally, violating the terms set by a final restraining order could result in criminal charges being filed against you.


Can I Resolve a Domestic Violence Matter without Going to Court for an FRO Hearing?


Sometimes domestic violence matters can be resolved outside of Court and without a final restraining order. Once a temporary restraining order is issued, domestic violence attorneys can help the parties enter into a negotiated settlement called “civil restraints” or a “consent order for civil restraints”. 


These agreements do not carry the same weight as a Final Restraining Order but are enforceable by one party against the other. Typically, as part of a civil restraints agreement, the parties will consent to stay away from one another or to limit their contact exclusively to matters involving their shared children. The parties may also agree to certain child custody or child support arrangements; however, civil restraints should not be used as an “end-run” around child custody, child support, or divorce proceedings. 


As the New Jersey Supreme Court made clear in Cesare v. Cesare, domestic violence proceedings should not be used as “a weapon to gain a strategic advantage in the matrimonial court, thus, trivializing and distorting the beneficial purpose of the [Prevention of Domestic Violence Act] to protect against regular abusive behavior.”


Whether you are the victim or the accused in a domestic violence situation, a family law attorney or criminal defense lawyer can help you successfully navigate domestic violence legal proceedings and garner the best possible outcome for you and your family. Defense attorneys versed in criminal law can advise you as to any criminal charges you or the individual accused of domestic violence may be facing. Meanwhile, a law firm with family law experience can assist you in handling a restraining order hearing or addressing important legal issues like child custody and child support. A family law attorney near you can also guide you on how domestic violence orders may intersect with matrimonial or divorce litigation.


Schedule a free consultation with a domestic violence lawyer near you today to get invaluable legal representation and advice on your specific case.

More on Domestic Violence

A temporary restraining order (TRO) is a temporary order of protection meant to offer provisional relief for victims of domestic violence. To obtain a TRO in New Jersey, you can either go to your local police department or to the Family Division of the Superior Court in the county where you reside or where the incident took place.

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