Q. What is the Domestic Violence Act?
A. The Domestic Violence Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et. seq.) is a series of laws designed to protect victims of domestic violence.
Q. What types of relief does this Act provide?
A. The most sought-after and powerful relief provided by The Act is a Restraining Order. A Restraining Order can either be temporary or final and can only be issued by a judge. If issued, a Restraining Order can direct an offender to stay away from a victim, the victim’s family, and the victim’s friends. It can also direct an offender to stay away from the victim’s residence, place of employment, and other places frequented by the victim.
Q. How do I get Restraining Order?
A. Between the hours of 8:30 am to 3:00 pm, you can apply for a Restraining Order in the Family Court Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court, at the Robert N. Wilentz Court Complex, Room 1215, 212 Washington Street, Newark. After 3:00 pm, contact your local police department. They will contact a judge to determine whether or not a Restraining Order should be granted.
Q. How do I know if I am entitled to a Restraining Order?
A. To qualify for a Restraining Order you must be a “victim” who has been subjected to an act of “domestic violence.” “Victim” means any person 18 years of age or older, who has been subjected to an act of domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or present or former household member. It also includes any person, regardless of age, who has been subjected to an act of domestic violence by a person with whom he/she has a child in common, or if one of the parties is pregnant by the other. It also includes a person with whom the defendant has had a dating relationship. “Domestic Violence” means any of the following acts committed against a “victim” as defined above: Homicide; Assault, Terroristic Threats; Kidnapping; Criminal Restraint; False Imprisonment; Sexual Assault; Criminal Sexual Contact; Lewdness; Criminal Mischief; Burglary; Criminal Trespass; Harassment; and Stalking. Please see the Victim Identification Flow Chart.
Q. Can I get a Restraining Order against a juvenile?
A. Only if the juvenile has been emancipated. Emancipation is defined as 1.) Having a child or being pregnant; 2.) Currently or previously married; 3.) Currently or previously in the military; or 4.) Having been declared emancipated by a court or an administrative agency. Please see the Victim Identification Flow Chart.
Q. What happens when I go to court to get a Restraining Order?
A. Superior and Municipal Court procedures differ slightly. In the Superior Court, Domestic Violence Unit you will be asked to fill out a domestic violence complaint. A domestic violence complaint is a civil complaint, not a criminal complaint. You will then appear before a judge who will review the complaint and ask you some questions. If the judge is satisfied, a Temporary Restraining order will be issued and date will be set for a Final Restraining Order hearing. After hours, the same procedure is followed, however, the judge is contacted over the telephone by the local police department and the order is issued over the phone.
Q. What is the difference between a Temporary and Final Restraining Order?
A. A Temporary Restraining Order is issued based only upon the input of the victim. The defendant is not notified by the court and is not present. A Temporary Restraining Order is intended to provide exactly the same relief to the victim as a Final Restraining Order. However, it is intended to last only until the final hearing or until another court order is entered.
Q. Does my Temporary Restraining Order have a time limit?
A. No. A Temporary Restraining Order will last until it is dismissed by the court at the request of the victim; or if a final hearing is held and a Final Restraining Order is not granted. There is no ‘time limit’ on a Temporary Restraining Order. If the defendant is served with the Restraining Order but does not appear for a final hearing, the Temporary Restraining Order can continue indefinitely.
Q. How long does a Final Restraining Order last?
A. If there has been a final hearing and a Final Restraining Order has been granted, it will last unless and until a court dismisses it. If there is no request for dismissal, it will last indefinitely.
Q. Do I have to tell the defendant my address to get a Restraining Order?
A. No. If your current address is not known to the defendant, the court will not compel you to tell the defendant. The Order will merely indicate that the defendant is “barred from the current residence.”
Q. I have moved and my Restraining Order has my old address and my old place of employment. What should I do?
A. If you would like this information added to your Restraining order, you should request a modification form the Superior Court. A new hearing date will be set and the modifications will be made. However, be aware that this information will be made available to the defendant.
Q. I want to drop my Restraining Order. Can I just let the defendant move back in or start seeing him again?
A. No. Restraining Orders can only be dismissed by a court. Any violation of a Restraining Order, even if consented to by a victim, may result in the arrest and incarceration of a defendant.
Q. What do I do if I feel my Restraining Order has been violated?
A. Call the police. A violation of a Restraining Order is a crime, punishable by up to 18 months in jail. Restraining Order violations are treated very seriously by law enforcement and the courts. Violations typically result in complaints being issued by either the police or victim. If you encounter problems in reporting a violation of a Restraining Order, contact the Domestic Violence Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office.
Q. What is the Essex County Family Justice Center?
A. The Essex County Family Justice Center (“FJC”) is a free and confidential walk-in center for domestic violence victims who are seeking help. To make services more accessible, professional staff from several agencies are located in one facility, including detectives and assistant prosecutors from the Essex County Prosecutors Office.
The Essex FJC was New Jersey’s first family justice center, established in 2010 to provide co-located and coordinated services to domestic violence victims and their children.
At the Essex County FJC, questions and concerns are addressed on a one-to-one basis. First-time visitors meet with a bi-lingual Screener who will explain the support services available, then help arrange access to the needed services. The mission of the Essex County Family Justice Center is to enhance the safety and autonomy of domestic violence victims and their children by providing accessible and coordinated services in one location.
The FJC is open to all victims and survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence in Essex County, regardless of gender, race, age, culture, marital status, sexual orientation, immigration status, or disability.