The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in NJ is designed to protect victims of domestic violence from further abuse - women or men. First a Temporary Restraining Order is issued on little more than the allegations of the "victim". Approximately 10 days later a hearing is held to determine if there is merit to the claim of domestic violence and if the Judge finds the "victims" allegations "credible", a Permanent Restraining Order is issued. And it remains in place until the Plaintiff comes to Court and requests that it be dismissed - after answering a series of questions and often after getting counseling from a Domestic Violence Counselor in the Court to determine whether or not the request for dismissal is genuine and not coerced. Even if the Defendant moves to another state the restraining order remains in place. Years later the restraining order is still active. Any any violation - any contact - can result in an arrest.
No Contact Means No Contact
Once a Restraining Order is in place, and it states "no contact" - that is not a recommendation - it is a mandate. No telephone calls are allowed. No text messages. No emails. Any contact can be considered Harassment - and that would be contempt. While the original restraining order is issued in the civil court, the family court. contempt actions are heard under the criminal code. A violation results in the issuance of a warrant for arrest - and an arrest could result in days in jail until a judge can hear your case. Bail could be set - and if you cannot pay the bail you do not leave the jail. Even if the plaintiff calls you - you cannot return the call. If the plaintiff asks you to do a favor - say no - it could be a trap and you could end up in jail. If you and the plaintiff shop in the same store - find another store. You cannot live in the same building. In some cases you cannot work in the same building. There are no excuses - no contact means no contact.
During the Temporary Restraining Order Phase You May Lose Parenting Privileges
There is a presumption that if you committed domestic violence, you may pose a danger to the children. During the time between the temporary restraining order and the issuance of a permanent order you may lose parenting time with your children. How do you see your children without coming into contact with the plaintiff? It is difficult but any attempt to see your children could land you in jail. You could ask the Court for an earlier court date for the permanent restraining order hearing - but without a Court Order allowing you to contact and/or see the children - stay away.
Restraining Orders can be Successfully Contested
It takes very little to get a temporary restraining order - it takes a credible position to prevent a permanent restraining order. Come to a final hearing prepared with phone records, text messages, emails, witnesses - anything that will prove that you did not commit domestic violence. Domestic violence is based upon the criminal code - homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, etc. - this is what constitutes domestic violence. Even if you did not initiate the attack, you owe it to yourself - your freedom - to walk away, turn the other cheek, file a restraining order to protect yourself. Yes men file and get restraining orders. Demeanor in the courtroom is worth a lot towards your case. Yes you are angry - but angry can serve to prove the plaintiff's case - if you were the victim, leave macho at the door and let the court know that you had to protect yourself. Most important - don't try to defend yourself in Court - get a lawyer
Child Support is only one thing you might have to pay.
If a permanent restraining order is issued, and there are children, child support is a given. You might have an opportunity for parenting time - children have a right to be with both parents. You might also have to pay medical bills if the violence resulted in physical injury. If the victim was dependent on you financially, you might have to pay their rent and/or some form of temporary support, particularly if the plaintiff is a spouse.
Domestic Violence is a serious criminal matter.
If you are found guilty of domestic violence you will have your photo taken, your fingerprints taken, and you will have to pay a $50 fee. You now have a "record". If you are an immigrant or an undocumented alien, you could be deported. If you leave the country you could be denied re-entry. It could affect your employment. If you are a police officer you lose your service revolver on the entry of a temporary restraining order and even if no domestic violence is proved, you could wait months before regaining your service revolver. If you had a part-time job as a security guard you could lose it because you no longer have a gun. Lawyers risk their law practice; politicians risk their elected office. Even if you are ultimately found innocent of domestic violence - a temporary restraining order puts you out of your home and in constant vulnerability to being arrested.
Additional resources provided by the author
N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19 offers definitions of what constitutes domestic violence.
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