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A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) can be obtained through the Court. A victim of domestic violence can obtain a TRO by going to the courthouse during the Court’s daytime hours and appearing before a judge. Another way to obtain a TRO is through the police. If police are contacted regarding a domestic violence matter, the police can contact a judge to obtain a TRO. Judges are on call for emergent matters even during the nighttime, on weekends and holidays.
In New Jersey a “victim” of domestic violence is not only a spouse. The statute, 2C:25-19, has included in its definition a former spouse, a person who is a present or former household member, a person with whom the victim had a child in common, or with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common, if pregnant, someone with whom the victim has had a dating relationship, college suitemate, etc. Some definitions of victim include an age limit.
If a victim obtains a TRO, the TRO will have on it the date for a hearing. The court rules of evidence will apply at the hearing. At the hearing the victim will take the stand, call any witnesses to testify, and produce any relevant and admissible evidence. The victim and witnesses will be subject to cross-examination. The party accused of domestic violence is called the defendant. The defendant may take the stand, call any witnesses and introduce any relevant and admissible evidence. The defendant and witnesses will be subject to cross-examination.
The judge will decide if an act of domestic violence has occurred. In New Jersey, an act of domestic violence is not limited to physical violence. Domestic violence can consist of any one of the following: (1) homicide, (2) assault, (3) terroristic threats, (4) kidnapping, (5) criminal restraint, (6) false imprisonment, (7) sexual assault, (8) criminal sexual assault, (9) lewdness, (10) criminal mischief, (11) burglary, (12) criminal trespass, (13) harassment, and (14) stalking. (2C:25-19). These acts have very specific meanings according to the statute and the judges who have interpreted the statute through case law. If the judge finds that an act of domestic violence did not occur, the TRO will be dismissed. If the judge finds that an act of domestic violence occurred, the judge will enter a Final Restraining Order (FRO). A FRO carries significant consequences to the defendant.
If a FRO is entered, the judge may restrain the defendant from future contact with the victim and restrain the defendant from returning to the victim’s residence, place of employment, etc. The Court can prohibit or limit contact. The Court can limit the defendant’s contact with the victim, and others. The Court will probably prohibit the defendant from having possession of weapons. The Court may order a risk assessment to protect children. The Court can also order financial or monetary relief to the victim by ordering temporary support, medical insurance coverage, compensatory damages, punitive damages, reimbursement of counsel fees, etc. The Court can also order the defendant to participate in an anger management program. This is just some of the relief the Court can order. Importantly, a violation of a domestic violence restraining order, be it a TRO or FRO, can result in a criminal prosecution as well as criminal penalties which could include jail.