Can the abuser have a gun?
Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession. There are a few places where you can find this information:
- first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in New Jersey have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
- second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
- third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.
You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website.
What should I do when I leave the courthouse?
Here are some steps that you may want to take as you are preparing to leave the courthouse and afterwards. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.
- Review the restraining order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how to correct the order before you leave.
- Make several copies of the protection order as soon as possible. Leave a copy of the order at your workplace, at your home, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and if children are included, at the children’s school or daycare. Basically, make sure that you have a copy of the order available at all times. Once the defendant has been served, put a copy of the return of service with all copies of the order.
- Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
- Give a copy of the restraining order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
- Take steps to safety plan, including changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.
A restraining order is not a guarantee of your safety. Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order. Many abusers obey protection orders, but some do not, and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. For suggestions on staying safe, visit our Staying Safe page. Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support. To find an advocate in your area please visit our NJ Advocates and Shelters page. Remember that if the abuser violates the order in any way, you can report the violation to your local law enforcement, and s/he may be arrested.
I was denied a restraining order at the final hearing. What are my options?
If you are not granted a restraining order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource organizations in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need. For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Safety Tips page. You will find a list of New Jersey resources on our NJ Places that Help page.
If you were not granted a restraining order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify as a “family or household member,” you may be able to seek protection through the criminal courts. For more information, see What if I don’t qualify for a restraining order?
You can also reapply for a restraining order in the future if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.
If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to someone a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. See our File an Appeal page for more information.
What can I do if the abuser violates the order?
If the abuser violates any part of the order, you can call the police and report the violation. If the abuser continues to harass, telephone, threaten, stalk or physically harm you, or violates the “stay-away provision,” a police officer can arrest the abuser, even if the officer does not witness the abuse.1 An abuser who violates a restraining order can face criminal contempt charges for the violation in addition to any other crime that s/he may have committed when violating the order. Purposely or knowingly violating a domestic violence restraining order could be a “disorderly persons offense.” If when violating the order, s/he also committed a crime or a disorderly persons offense, then s/he can be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. The penalties can potentially include jail time.2
Also, if the abuser violates any portion of the restraining order (especially the part that deals with visitation, monetary compensation, orders for rent or mortgage payments, distribution of property, etc., which the police likely will not address), you have the right to enforce the order by bringing an application in the Family Court based on the violation.
You can call the Family Court Domestic Violence unit, or visit the appropriate division at the Family Court, and ask the intake staff to file the appropriate papers necessary to enforce the terms of the order. Different counties have different forms for seeking enforcement, but in most counties, the process is called a “Motion for Enforcement of Litigant’s Rights.”
1 N.J. Stat. § 2C:25-31
2 N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:25-30; 2C:29-9(b)
Can I change or dismiss the final order? Can the abuser get the order dismissed?
If you want to modify (change) your order, go back to the court where you were granted the restraining order it and file a modification petition to with the clerk.1
If you are granted a final restraining order, it does not have an expiration date and can last forever – it will only end if you or the abuser files in court to dissolve the order. If you file to dismiss the order, the judge would hold a hearing where you are both present and the judge may question you to make sure that you are not being coerced or threatened into requesting the dismissal. If the abuser files to dismiss the order (often referred to as a “Carfagno motion”), the judge typically will consider the following factors to determine if there is “good cause” to vacate the restraining order:
- whether or not you consent to vacate the order;
- whether or not you are still in fear of the defendant;
- the current nature of the relationship between you and the abuser;
- the number of times that the abuser has been convicted of contempt for violating the order;
- whether or not the abuser has a continuing involvement with drug or alcohol use;
- whether or not the defendant has been involved in other violent acts with other people;
- if the abuser has attended counseling;
- the age and health of the abuser;
- whether or not you are “acting in good faith” if you oppose the abuser’s request to vacate the order;
- whether or not another court has entered a restraining order protecting you from the abuser; and
- any other factor that the judge believes is relevant.2
1 N.J. Stat. § 2C:25-29(d)
2Carfagno v. Carfagno, 288 N.J. Super. 424, 434 (Ch. Div. 1995)
What happens if I move? Is my restraining order still enforceable?
If you are moving to another part of New Jersey1 or to another state, your restraining order is still enforceable. Federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it is valid in any state you are in. It follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands. However, since different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state restraining orders, it may make enforcement easier if you know that state’s regulations. You can also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2) for information on enforcing your order in another state.
To read more information about moving out of New Jersey with a restraining order, please see our Moving to Another State with a Restraining Order page.
Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.
1 N.J. Stat. § 2C:25-28(p)
Can I keep my address confidential if I move?
You may wish to take advantage of the New Jersey Address Confidentiality Program if you move to a new address and want to keep it concealed from the abuser. The program allows victims of domestic violence to apply for a designated address that only the Division on Women and its employees will know. When the State receives mail for you, the mail will be forwarded to you at your actual address. The program’s goal is to keep your address confidential in the records of State and local government agencies,1 including when applying for any type of public assistance, such as welfare or unemployment. You can also request that any state or local agencies through which you already receive assistance use the designated address. The agency must accept the designated address unless it can show the program that your actual address is necessary and required by law.
1 You can read the relevant laws on the NJ state government website