New Jersey Domestic Violence
In 1982, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, codified at N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17, et seq. was enacted
to address domestic abuse and provide civil remedies for victims in the form of a restraining order.
The Domestic Violence Act addresses what constitutes domestic violence, who is a protected party,
meaning who can receive a restraining order, how to obtain a restraining order, including the relief
a court may grant in a restraining order, and the consequences should a party fail to abide by the
WHAT CONSTITUTES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
The Act specifies that domestic violence is the occurrence of one or more of the following:
WHO CAN FILE A COMPLAINT FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
- Terroristic threats
- Criminal restraint
- False imprisonment
- Sexual assault
- Criminal sexual contact
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal Trespass
In order to file for a restraining order, the plaintiff has to have a certain relationship with the
defendant. A protected person under the Domestic Violence Act is someone who is at least eighteen
years old or who is an emancipated minor. The protected person must have been subjected to domestic
abuse by a spouse, former spouse or any present or former household member. A protected party can be
of any age if that person has a child in common with the abuser or anticipates having a child in
common if one of the parties is pregnant. A victim of domestic violence in a dating relationship may
also seek a restraining order.
HOW CAN A PERSON OBTAIN A RESTRAINING ORDER?
There are two steps in obtaining a restraining order. Complaint - First, victims may file a complaint
with the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court during weekdays and normal
courthouse hours. On the weekends, holidays, evenings or other times that the courthouse is not open,
a victim may seek protection through a Municipal Court Judge. At this stage, the court may enter an
ex parte Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in favor of the victim if the judge determines that an
imminent danger of domestic violence exists. Ex parte means that the court may enter an order based
upon the victim's sworn testimony alone. The complainant may provide testimony via telephone or other
means of electronic communication pursuant to R. 5:7A.
This type of order may provide the following relief:
The TRO will immediately be sent to the law enforcement agency for service upon the defendant and to
the police in the municipality where the defendant lives. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-28(i), the
defendant may immediately appeal the order for a plenary hearing de novo (anew) not on the record
before any family part judge in the County which the Plaintiff resides or is sheltered, provided that
judge issued the temporary or can access the reasons for the temporary issuance of the temporary order
and the defendant sets forth in the record those reasons for the modification or dissolution. This
Order will remain in effect until a judge of the Family Part issues a further order.
- Forbidding the defendant from returning to the scene of the domestic violence;
- Forbidding the defendant from possessing firearms or other weapons, including an order to search and seize any weapons at any location where the judge has reasonable cause to believe the weapon is located;
- And any other additional relief.
Domestic Violence Hearing - Within ten days of filing the Complaint, the court shall conduct a
domestic violence hearing in which both plaintiff and defendant are permitted to testify and provide
witnesses to determine whether a final order shall be entered.
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(b) the final order may include the following relief:
If the court, after hearing, find that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence, a civil
penalty shall be ordered against the defendant between $50 and $500 and submitted to the Domestic
Violence Victims' Fund. Unlike a criminal trial, plaintiff needs to prove the case by a preponderance
by the evidence, a lesser standard than beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Restraining the defendant from subjecting the victim to domestic violence.
- Granting exclusive possession of the residence or household regardless of ownership, including payment or rent.
- Parenting time.
- Monetary compensation for losses suffered as a direct result of the act of domestic violence, including punitive damages.
- Counseling and/or anger management.
- Restraints from entering the residence, property, school, place of employment of the victim.
- Restraining any contact with the plaintiff directly or through third persons.
- Payment of rent or mortgage payments.
- Temporary possession of personal property, including vehicles.
- Emergency monetary relief, such as child support.
- Temporary custody of a child.
- Supervision of the removal of personal belongings.
- Any other appropriate relief for the plaintiff and dependent children
- Requiring that the Family Part In-Take Unit monitor the final order
- Preventing the defendant from possessing firearms or weapons and/or ordering the search and seizure of any weapons.
- Restraint the defendant against stalking, following, or threatening to harm the protected party.
- Psychiatric evaluation of the defendant.
If a law enforcement officer finds probable cause that a defendant has violated a restraining order,
the defendant shall be arrested without a warrant. Alternatively, a protected party may file a
complaint alleging that the defendant has violated the order. The court shall conduct a hearing to
determine whether the defendant has violated the order. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b), the Court
may impose jail time for a first contempt offense if aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating
circumstances. If a person is convicted of a second or subsequent non-indictable domestic violence
contempt offense, the defendant shall serve a minimum term of not less than 30 days.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Theodore Sliwinski, Esquire, dedicates his practice to providing
quality and very affordable legal services to the public. He believes that everyone should be able to
afford quality legal services. He has thirteen years of legal experience and has handled hundreds of
divorces, bankruptcies, traffic violations, and criminal and civil cases. He is headquartered in
central New Jersey. Affordability, accessibility, responsiveness and personal commitment is what every
Mr. Sliwinski can be contacted by phone at (732) 257-0708 or or Visit Web Site
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