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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

.Domestic violence is the occurrence of one or more of the following 14 criminal offenses upon a person protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) of 1991: homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment or stalking. In domestic violence cases the plaintiff is a person who seeks or has been granted relief under the PDVA. The defendant is a person at least 18 years old or emancipated who is alleged to have committed or who has been found to have committed an act of domestic violence under the PDVA. The parties must have had a specific relationship at present or in the past. The gender of the parties is not a factor.

The relationship must be one of the following: marriage; separation; divorce; living together in the same household at present or in the past; a person whom the plaintiff has dated or a person with whom the plaintiff has a child in common or anticipates having a child in common. The defendant must be 18 or older or be an emancipated minor. Under the PDVA, a minor is considered emancipated from his or her parents when the minor is or has been married, has entered military service, has a child or is pregnant, or has been previously declared by the court or an administrative agency to be emancipated.

*To file a complaint after office hours please contact your local police department. Local Police Departments and Municipal Courts have a duty to hear your complaint for a restraining order when the court is closed.


Helpful Resources

Step by Step Guide to Filing a Restraining Order at the Courthouse . Prevention of Domestic Violence Act Pamphlet

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Domestic Violence Supervision Unit .

New Jersey Judiciary Domestic Violence
Information and Initiatives


Contact Information

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Atlantic County
Valerie Lathan (609) 594-3926
Atlantic County Civil Court House
Family Division Unit
1201 Bacharch Blvd.
Atlantic City, NJ 08401
Hours: Mon.-Fri.
8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE -
Cape May County
MaryBeth Hornig (609) 463-6604

Cape May Courthouse
Family Division Unit
9 North Main Street
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Hours: Mon.-Fri.
8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m

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Overview

Filing Questions

Court Process

Representation Questions

Violations of Restraining Order

Appeals/Dismiss Restraining Order

Shelter Information /Additional Resources

. National Domestic Violence Hotline:

Hotline: 1-800-572-SAFE (7233)
24 hours a day - 7 days a week
TTY: 1-888-252-7233

 

 

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is the occurrence of one or more of the following 14 criminaloffenses upon a person protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act(PDVA) of 1991: homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminalsexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass,harassment or stalking. In domestic violence cases the plaintiff is a person who seeks or has been granted relief under the PDVA. The defendant is a person at least 18 years old or emancipated who is alleged to have committed or who has been found to have committed an act of domestic violence under the PDVA. The parties must have had a specific relationship at present or in the past. The gender of the parties is not a factor.

The relationship must be one of the following: marriage; separation; divorce; living together in the same household at present or in the past; a person whom the plaintiff has dated or a person with whom the plaintiff has a child in common or anticipates having a child in common. The defendant must be 18 or older or be an emancipated minor. Under the PDVA, a minor is considered emancipated from his or her parents when the minor is or has been married, has entered military service, has a child or is pregnant, or has been previously declared by the court or an administrative agency to be emancipated.

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What is a restraining order?

A restraining order is an order issued by the court that is intended to protect a victim of domestic violence. The provisions contained in this type of court order are based upon the circumstances and vary from case to case.

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Are records kept confidential?

All domestic violence records are confidential and cannot be released to the public or an organization unless there is an Order authorizing release.

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Who can qualify for a restraining order?

A victim of domestic violence is a person who is 18 years of age or older, or who is an emancipated minor, and who has been subjected to domestic violence by: a spouse, former spouse, present or former household member OR who, regardless of age, has been subjected to domestic violence by a person: with whom the victim has a child in common, or with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common, if one of the parties is pregnant, OR who regardless of age, has been subjected to domestic violence by a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship. A defendant must be 18 or emancipated

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How does a person apply for a restraining order?

A person may file where the domestic violence occurred, where the defendant resides, where the plaintiff resides, or where the plaintiff is sheltered or temporarily staying. A domestic violence complaint can be filed at the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court/Family Division Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  On weekends, holidays and weekdays after 3:30 p.m. and other times when the Superior Court is closed, a plaintiff may file a complaint at the local police department.

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What happens when a complaint is filed in the Family Division?

A domestic violence staff member will interview the plaintiff and ask specific questions that pertain to the incident that has brought them to court and about past
incidents of domestic violence.After the interview, there will be a hearing with a domestic violence hearing officer or judge. This hearing is without notice to the defendant. If the restraining order is granted, the plaintiff will be issued a temporary restraining order (TRO). If the hearing officer does not recommend a TRO, the plaintiff may request to have the matter heard before a judge.

If the court issues a TRO, the plaintiff will be given a date to return for a final restraining order (FRO) hearing within 10 days.

Copies of the TRO will be sent to law enforcement for personal service on the defendant. The plaintiff and defendant need to appear on the scheduled day of the final hearing.

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What happens at the final hearing?

In the hearing, the judge will hear testimony from both parties. The judge will decide whether an act of domestic violence occurred, whether a final restraining order (FRO) should be issued and if so, what types of relief will be granted.

If a judge finds that an act of domestic violence has occurred, the defendant may be prohibited against future acts of domestic violence. He or she may be barred from the plaintiff's residence, place of employment or other places; prohibited from having any oral, written, personal or electronic form of contact or communication with the plaintiff or others; and prohibited from making or causing anyone else to make harassing communications to the plaintiff or others. The defendant may be prohibited from stalking, following or threatening to harm, stalk or follow the plaintiff or others. The defendant may be ordered to pay child support, emergent monetary relief, attend substance abuse counseling or other evaluations. The defendant will be prohibited from possession of weapons.

The plaintiff may be issued exclusive possession of the residence, temporary custody of children, support, medical coverage, damages and other items.

If the FRO is issued, the defendant will be photographed and fingerprinted and will be ordered to pay a penalty of $50 to $500 payable through the courts finance department.

A copy of the FRO will be given to both parties. It is important to review the order before leaving the building to ensure accuracy.

The Family Division will forward a copy of the order to the police department in the municipality where the plaintiff resides. The plaintiff should also provide copies to work, daycare centers, schools and any other places of significance. The plaintiff should keep the FRO in his or her possession at all times. If lost, additional copies may be requested at the Domestic Violence Unit where the order was entered.

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Can a criminal complaint be filed?

Should parties bring anything to the final restraining order hearing?

Parties should bring photos of injuries and property damage, witnesses, medical documents, receipts from property damage and financial information if requesting rent/mortgage payments, spousal or child support, or any other important documents. Bring anything you want the court to consider. Bring an attorney if you have retained one.

Can a criminal complaint be filed?

In addition to requesting a restraining order, the plaintiff can file a criminal complaint arising from the same incident. The plaintiff can file criminal charges, request a restraining order, or both. If there are visible signs of injury, the police officer must sign a criminal complaint.When the plaintiff is seeking a TRO, a companion criminal complaint may be filed where the alleged act occurred, where the defendant resides, where the plaintiff resides, or where the plaintiff is sheltered or temporarily staying. Criminal charges are filed in the town where the incident occurred and are heard in either Municipal Court or the Criminal
Division of Superior Court.

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How long does a restraining order last?

The Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) lasts until a subsequent court order extends or dissolves the order, or replaces the order with a Final Restraining Order (FRO). There is no time limit on FROs in New Jersey.

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What if the defendant fails to appear in court?

If the defendant does not appear in court after being properly notified, the court can still enter a final restraining order as long as the victim is there to testify. A copy of the final order will be served upon the defendant.

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What if the defendant violates the restraining order?

Enforcement occurs when the plaintiff seeks to have the defendant comply with provisions outlined in an existing order. The restraining order is divided into two parts. Part 1 contains restraints against contact and Part 2 primarily deals with financial and parenting issues. If the defendant is not complying with any provision outlined in Part 1 of the restraining order, the plaintiff may go to the police station and sign criminal charges. If the defendant is not complying with Part 2 of the order, it must be enforced through Family Court. Domestic violence matters are serious in nature and if at any time either party is unsure about court procedures he or she should call the police or contact Family Court.

It is very important for you to carry a copy of the Domestic Violence Restraining Order with you at all times.

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How can a party modify a Final Restraining Order?

If you already have a Domestic Violence Final Restraining Order (FRO) and want to return to court to modify or change your restraining order you must file a motion or affidavit requesting modification with the Domestic Violence Unit.

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How can a party appeal a Temporary Restraining Order?

To appeal a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) you must report to the Domestic Violence Unit.

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What happens if the victim wants to dismiss the restraining order?

An order can be modified when one party seeks to add or change provisions of an order. Any request to dismiss or make changes to an existing order must be done in person and heard before a judge. If the plaintiff reconciles with the defendant, it does not mean an automatic dismissal of an order. If the plaintiff wishes to reconcile with the defendant the plaintiff must appear before a judge in the Family Division of Superior Court to request a dismissal. Contact between the plaintiff and defendant in advance of a court order subjects the defendant to criminal prosecution. If the restraining order is dismissed, there still may be pending criminal charges that need to be addressed separately in the appropriate Municipal
or Criminal Court.

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What if the parties need legal advice?

Preparing for a court hearing is very important, however, court employees cannot give legal advice. The following is a list of agencies that provide various levels of legal assistance.

Legal Assistance for Plaintiffs and Defendants:

  • If either party needs legal advice, they may contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the

    Atlantic County Bar Association at 609-345-3444.
    Cape May County Bar Association at (609) 463-0313.

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