In New Jersey, there are three requirements to obtain a domestic violence final restraining order against a person. First, the victim must have jurisdiction. Jurisdiction requires, for example, that the victim and the defendant have a child in common, are household members, former household members, spouses, or former spouses, or have some other special relationship. Basically, the victim and the accused cannot be strangers.
Second, the victim must prove that the defendant committed a “predicate act” of domestic violence against the victim. A predicate act of domestic violence, includes, but is not limited to, assault, harassment, criminal mischief, terroristic threats, kidnapping, false imprisonment, and many more. All of these predicate acts are, by themselves, crimes. However, since domestic violence is a civil action litigated in the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey, the predicate act does not have to be prosecuted as a crime for the victim to obtain a final restraining order against the defendant.
Third, the victim must demonstrate that the final restraining order is necessary to prevent immediate harm to the victim, or that a final restraining order is needed to prevent further acts of domestic violence by the defendant against the victim.
Upon a finding of domestic violence, a final restraining order will entered against the defendant preventing the defendant from contacting, in any manner, the victim or other persons protected by the order (usually the victim’s family). The defendant will be finger-printed, added to a domestic violence offender’s registry, be required to pay fines, and suffer other serious consequences. A defendant can be ejected from their home, prevented from being employed in certain fields, separated from their children, and be prevented from possessing firearms.
A domestic violence case begins with the victim filing a temporary restraining order against the defendant. This is either done at the local police department after a predicate act of domestic violence is reported to the police, or at the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part. If the jurisdictional requirements are met, the standard for issuance of a temporary restraining order is simply that the victim’s life, health, or well-being require protection from the defendant. After the issuance of a temporary restraining order, the case must be heard before the Superior Court within 10 days.
If criminal charges are brought against a defendant based upon the predicate act(s) of domestic violence, the criminal case proceeds separately. A defendant must be mindful of the fact that more than one case may be pending against them.
If a defendant violates either the temporary or final restraining order, the consequences are severe. The violation is considered a criminal contempt and may be prosecuted by the county prosecutor as a crime. In all cases, a defendant must strictly abide by the restrictions set forth in the restraining order. No contact with a victim means absolutely no contact, in any manner, directly or indirectly, with the victim. A violation of a restraining order, no matter how small, can have serious negative consequences for the defendant.