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Know the Laws: New Jersey

UPDATED February 3, 2016

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

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A restraining order is a civil order that provides protection from harm by a present or former family or household member, someone you are dating or have dated, or someone with whom you have a child in common or are pregnant by.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic violence in New Jersey?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a restraining order.  Domestic violence is when an adult (or an emancipated minor) who has the relationship to you that is described here commits one of the following crimes against you, listed below.  (Note: An adult or a minor cannot file for domestic violence protection order against an abuser who is a minor and unemancipated). 

  1. homicide;
  2. assault;
  3. terroristic threats;
  4. kidnapping;
  5. criminal restraint;
  6. false imprisonment;
  7. sexual assault;
  8. criminal sexual contact;
  9. lewdness;
  10. criminal mischief;
  11. burglary;
  12. criminal trespass;
  13. harassment;
  14. stalking;
  15. criminal coercion;
  16. robbery;
  17. contempt of a domestic violence order, which constitutes a crime or disorderly persons offense (see section "b" of the statute); or
  18. any other crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury.*

Note: An emancipated minor is someone who is under 18 but who has been married, has entered military service, has a child, is pregnant or has been emancipated by a court.**  If an unemancipated minor commits one of the above acts, it can be the basis for civil restraints as part of a delinquency petition* (which is different than a petition for a restraining order).  You can read more about delinquency petitions on our NJ Statutes page.  In addition, if you (the victim of domestic violence) are a minor, you may be able to file for a restraining order based on "stalking of a child" by filing a complaint with the Superior Court.***  See Can a minor file for a restraining order against an abuser who is under age 18? for more information.

* NJSA § 2C:25-19(a)
** NJSA § 2C:25-19(e)
*** NJSA § 2C:12-10.2(c)

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back to topWhat types of restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

In New Jersey, there are two types of restraining orders:

Temporary restraining order (TRO)
When you file a complaint for a restraining order, you can ask for a temporary ex parte restraining order (TRO) to be issued immediately.  A judge can grant you a TRO if s/he finds that it is necessary to protect your life, health or well-being.   The order will last until the hearing for a final restraining order, which is generally scheduled within 10 days.*  (An "ex parte" TRO means that the judge will make this decision based only on the information you provide, without the abuser being in court and without prior notice to him/her.)  If you cannot be physically present in court due to extreme circumstances, a judge can issue a TRO upon the sworn testimony or complaint of you or of a person who represents you if you are physically or mentally incapable of filing personally.**  Note: If you need immediate protection when the courts are closed (regular courthouse hours are usually M - F, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm), you can file at the municipal court (if it is open) or you can call your local police department or 911.  Generally, there is an "on call" municipal court judge who can issue you a TRO and schedule the court date for the final restraining order hearing.  If a municipal judge denies you the TRO, you can re-file your petition in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court when the court reopens.***

Final restraining order
After a hearing in which you both have an opportunity to tell your side of the story through testimony, evidence, and witnesses, a judge can grant you a final restraining order.  A final restraining order has no end date and can last forever -- or until one of one of the parties files a legal motion in court asking the judge to end or modify (change) the order and the judge agrees.****

* NJSA §§ 2C:25-28(a),(f); 2C:25-29(a)
** NJSA § 2C:25-28(h)
*** NJSA § 2C:25-28(f),(i)
**** NJSA § 2C:25-29(d)

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back to topHow can a restraining order help me?

A temporary, ex parte order can:

  • forbid the defendant from returning to the scene of the domestic violence (except with a police officer to pick up personal belongings at a specific time/date);
  • forbid the defendant from possessing any firearm or certain other weapons (unless s/he is a law enforcement officer or in the military - then s/he can possess firearms while on duty);
  • order the police to search for and take any weapon (and firearms permit) at any location where the judge has reasonable cause to believe the weapon is located;
  • give you possession of any animal owned or kept by you, the defendant, or a child who lives in either household; and/or
  • order anything else the judge believes is appropriate, which often includes:
    • giving you temporary custody of your children; and
    • giving you exclusive possession of the home that you share with the abuser regardless of whose name is on the lease or whether or not the home is jointly owned.* 

A final restraining order can order the abuser to:

  • not commit domestic violence against you and not to threaten to harm, harass, or stalk you or anyone else named in the restraining order;
  • stay away from the home, property, school, work or any other place that is named in the restraining order of you and your family or household members;
  • pay (in full or in part) the rent or mortgage on your home if the judge decides that the abuser has a duty to support you or your children;
  • not make any contact that is likely to annoy or alarm you, including contact in person, by telephone, in writing, or through a third person with you or your family members, employers, other workers, etc;
  • pay you for reasonable losses resulting from the abuse (some examples of this are loss of earnings or support, the cost of injuries, moving or travel expenses, the replacement or repair of property damaged or taken by the abuser, attorney and counseling fees, compensation for pain and suffering, etc.);
  • be prohibited from purchasing, owning or possessing a firearm or other weapons, and order the search for and seizure of any firearm or other weapons at any place where the judge has reasonable cause to believe a weapon is located;
  • attend domestic violence counseling;
  • undergo a psychiatric evaluation; and/or
  • report to the court to monitor that the abuser is following the terms.

A final restraining order can also give you the following:

  • sole possession of the home where you both live (in other words, remove the abuser from the home).  The judge can order this even if the home is owned or leased only by the abuser, not you.  If, however, it is not possible for you to stay in the home, the judge can order the abuser to pay your rent for a new place if the abuser has a duty to support you;
  • temporary custody and decide how often the abuser can see your minor children, specify the time and place of parenting time, and require supervision or the participation of a third party.  Note: If the abuser is granted parenting time and then threatens the safety and well-being of your children in some way, you can apply for an emergency hearing and the judge will consider suspending the abuser's parenting time;
  • temporary possession of personal property such as a car, checkbook, health insurance documentation, identification, a key, and other personal items; (these items can be given either to you or the abuser);
  • emergency financial support from the abuser, including support for your minor children;
  • an order that a law enforcement officer must accompany you or the abuser to your home or shared workplace to supervise the removal of personal items;
  • possession of any animal owned or kept by you, the defendant, or a child who lives in either household; and/or
  • any other appropriate relief you request for you or your dependent children.**

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

* NJSA 2C:25-28(j),(k)
** NJSA § 2C:25-29(b)

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back to topIn which county can I file for a restraining order?

You can file a petition in the county where you live (or where you are temporarily living if you’ve left home to avoid further abuse), in the county where the abuser lives, or in the county where the abuse occurred.*  However, if you are trying to keep your address confidential, filing in the county to where you have fled would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

* NJSA § 2C:25-28(a)

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