Domestic violence exists and is real, and unfortunately, is common. This blog is not meant for the traditional domestic violence victim. The rights of true victims are rightly met with protections from the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which allow for the implementation of a Final Restraining Order that prohibits contact and the presence of the perpetrator away from the victim.
Instead, this blog is to recognize that not all domestic violence complaints (referred to as Temporary Restraining Orders) are based on legitimate allegations warranting permanent relief with a Final Restraining Order and, moreover, have been used “as a sword as opposed to a shield” by purported “victims” at times notwithstanding the incredible burden Final Restraining Orders carry.
Final Restraining Orders in New Jersey, unlike in other states, are permanent. Many people understand the main purpose of a Final Restraining Order from its name’s literal interpretation, namely, that it keeps one person from being in the presence of or contacting the other person.
With this in mind and often the mindset that “I don’t want to contact or be around them anyway,” someone may feel that having a lawyer present with them to defend them is unnecessary. This notion ignores the larger risks associated with appearing for trial without an attorney and having a Final Restraining Order entered against you.
Once a Temporary Restraining Order is entered, a Final Restraining Order hearing (essentially, a trial) is scheduled. This is typically scheduled within 7 to 10 days after the Temporary Restraining Order is issued.
At the hearing, you will be expected to follow the New Jersey Rules of Evidence which, in reality, may prevent you from testifying about what you believe is admissible and therefore, could prevent you from defending yourself as well as you otherwise may believe you could.
The hearing is also decided by a Judge. There are no juries. One judge who does not know you or your accuser will hear testimony and evidence (if properly introduced) and decide whether a Final Restraining Order will be entered against you or not.
The only opportunity to reverse that decision is typically to file an appeal, which can only be successful in very rare, limited instances. The Final Restraining Order hearing, in most cases, is the only opportunity to present your defense.
If that Final Restraining Order is entered, more than restraints are placed on the alleged perpetrator:
- That party’s name is entered into the New Jersey Domestic Violence Registry. Enrollment shows up on background checks and, in many fields, may hinder or even cost that person their current or prospective employment.
- That party is under threat of criminal sanction and imprisonment. Violating a Final Restraining Order in any facet results in an immediate arrest and prosecution.
- If the “victim” and “perpetrator” have children together, the existence of a Final Restraining Order may provide the victim with the presumption of primary custody of the children, which is an enormous advantage if custody litigation follows the alleged domestic violence incident.
- On a related note, the existence of a Final Restraining Order between parents often makes effective co-parenting, which inherently involves good communication, extremely difficult.
It cannot be emphasized the restraint on your liberty and burden to your family a Final Restraining Order can have, and I must caution you to deal with these issues alone. Everyone has a choice as to whether to represent themselves or to hire an attorney, but I would strongly encourage anyone looking at the possibility of a Final Restraining Order in New Jersey to take the time and speak with an experienced family law attorney.
If you choose to represent yourself and a Final Restraining Order is entered, your only option then may be an appeal which is indisputably expensive to procure in most situations and does not guarantee success. It is, therefore, vitally essential to get your defense in order at the time of the Final Restraining Order hearing (before one is entered) to properly safeguard yourself.