The declaration of the Domestic Violence Act of New Jersey was enacted in 1982 and revised in 1991. It is defined and articulated in N.J.S.A. 2C:25-18. The purpose of the act is to protect individuals who are in abusive domestic relations. The Act does not protect child abuse victims, cohorts, or acquaintances.
There are two hearings that must take place in order for an (alleged) victim to succeed in obtaining a Final Restraining Order against an (alleged) aggressor.
The first hearing is typically ex parte which means only the victim will be heard in either municipal or superior court. It is not uncommon for an applicant to not appear at this stage of the proceedings. If the application meets the following test a Temporary Restraining Order TRO will be granted:
- Did the defendant appear to have committed an act of domestic violence;
- Is the applicant is in danger of domestic violence;
- Is the Temporary Restraining Order necessary to protect the life, health and well-being of the victim;
- Is there good cause shown.
N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a) defines “Domestic Violence” in the following:
(1) Homicide N.J.S. 2C:11-1et seq.
(2) Assault N.J.S. 2C:12-1
(3) Terroristic Threats N.J.S. 2C:12-3
(4) Kidnapping N.J.S. 2C:13-1
(5) Criminal Restraint N.J.S. 2C;13-2
(6) False Imprisonment N.J.S. 2C:13-3
(7) Sexual Assault N.J.S. 2C:14-2
(8) Criminal Sexual Contact N.J.S. 2C:14-3
(9) Lewdness N.J.S. 2C:14-4
(10) Criminal Mischief N.J.S. 2C:17-3
(11) Burglary N.J.S. 2C:18-2
(12) Criminal Trespass N.J.S. 2C:18-3
(13) Harassment N.J.S. 2C:33-4
(14) Stalking P.L. 1992, c. 209 (C. 2C:12-10)
The TRO will then be served upon the aggressor, typically through the county’s sheriff department or local municipal police department.
Once the aggressor is served with a TRO he or she must avoid any and all contact with the applicant otherwise they will have to contend with a violation of TRO in addition to their argument and defense to the underlying allegation that supports the TRO.
Please pay close attention to the specific terms memorialized and factual determinations noted by the judge who signed your order. These instructions will set forth the terms in connection to custody, parenting time, weapons and weapons identification forfeiture.
Venue is typically laid in the county where the TRO was filed. Know that venue can be declared in either county of the victim or aggressor or in the alternative, the county where the alleged act of domestic violence occurred.
The Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing will be heard as soon as practicable. Adjournments will be granted only for good cause shown.
The applicant, who carries the burden of proof (preponderance of evidence or commonly referred as the slight “tipping of the scale”), must then satisfy the following prongs to successfully convert the TRO into an FRO:
- Find the victim qualifies as a “victim” under the domestic violence act N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(d);
- Find that the aggressor committed an act of “domestic violence” N.J.S.A. 2C;25-19(a); and
- Consider the following six criteria outlined in N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(a)(1)-(6):
(1) The previous history of domestic violence between the plaintiff and defendant, including threats, harassment and physical abuse;
(2) The existence of immediate danger to person or property;
(3) The financial circumstance of the plaintiff and defendant;
(4) The best interest of the victim and any child;
(5) In determining custody and parenting time the protection of the victim’s safety; and
(6) The existence of a verifiable order of protection from another jurisdiction.
Domestic violence is a subject matter that should not be taken lightly. Whether you are the subject of a false allegation or an individual who truly fears for their safety and well-being, please do not hesitate a moment longer. Contact the Law Office of Michael A. Grasso, Esq., LLC today and get your free consultation to obtain the vital information you need to make your case.
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