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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Unit
Wilentz Justice Complex
Room 1251, 12th Floor
212 Washington Street
Newark, New Jersey 07102
Main Number: 973-693-6840
Fax Number: 973-693-6845
Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Office Hours for filing complaints: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m*.

*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.

WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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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Where can a domestic violence complaint be filed?
A domestic violence complaint can be filed at the Domestic Violence Unit of the Family Division, located on the 12th floor of the Wilentz Justice Complex, 212 Washington Street, Newark, N.J., Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. After 3:30 p.m. and on weekends or holidays, a complaint can be filed at the local police department where the victim resides or is sheltered, the local police department where the defendant resides or the local police department where the incident occurred. The police will then contact a municipal court judge who will hear the request for a temporary restraining order by telephone or in person.

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

Court staff will interview the victim to determine whether the allegations and the relationship between the parties meet the criteria for filing a domestic violence complaint. Staff will explain the court process and advise the victim of available services.
After this, the complaint will be processed and the case heard as soon as possible by a Judge or Domestic Violence Hearing Officer. If the legal criteria have been met, and the victim’s life, health or well-being is in danger, the victim will be given a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), which will include a date to return to court for a final hearing within 10 days.
Copies of the TRO will be sent to law enforcement for service on the defendant. The court may also order a police escort for victims if they are likely to encounter the defendant when returning home.

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What services are available in the courthouse?

Plaintiff’s waiting room: The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act requires Superior Courts to designate a separate waiting room for domestic violence victims. The Essex Vicinage Waiting Room is the result of several years of collaborative efforts between the Superior Court and the County to create a separate and secure waiting area for domestic violence plaintiffs seeking restraining orders. This waiting area is the first specialized waiting room in the vicinage.
The Domestic Violence Waiting Room is open from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and is fully staffed at all times. The room boasts ample seating, secure rest rooms, and displays of an array of materials on the courts, domestic violence and related provider services. Since many children accompany plaintiffs to court, the area was designed to be child-friendly and includes children’s books and toys. There is a separate waiting room for defendants.

Defendant’s waiting room: The Defendant’s waiting room is located in Room 1207.  Materials on the courts, domestic violence and related provider services are available in this area.

Legal Advocates

Trained staff

Supervised Visitation Program: The goal of this program is to provide parents or guardians with an opportunity to visit with their children by court order in a safe, neutral and supervised environment. For more information on the Supervised Visitation Program call (973) 693-5521.

Office of the Ombudsman: Room 101, Veterans Courthouse, 50 West Market Street, Newark, NJ 07102. Tel: (973) 693-5728. The Essex Vicinage Ombudsman is a neutral staff person who answers questions, addresses concerns from the public and is responsible for enhancing customer service in the courts. 

ADA Information: Individuals who need an accommodation for a disability may contact the ADA coordinator at (973) 693-5701. TTY/TTD (voice) dial 711 for New Jersey Relay Service

Hearing Officer Program: The Domestic Violence Hearing Officer Program allows specially trained, experienced Domestic Violence Hearing Officers to hear initial requests and make recommendations for temporary restraining orders that can include emergent support; address interim custody in certain instances; determine who stays in the residence, as well as other types of temporary relief. A Superior Court Judge, Family Part, then reviews the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) drafted by the Domestic Violence Hearing Officers and, if approved, signs the TRO.

The Domestic Violence Hearing Officers may hear only ex-parte Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) applications with the following limitations:

1) Mandatory Exclusions
2) Any matter in which a change in legal custody or visitation is requested, simultaneous cross complaints, parties with pending or recently resolved cases, e.g., child abuse, criminal charges or other pending Family Part matters
3) Discretionary Exclusions
4) A matter which may raise complex issues of law or fact

Interpreters: Individuals who need an interpreter should inform the court to which their cases have been assigned.

Essex County Domestic Violence Working Group: Since the early days of the domestic violence prevention movement in the 1970’s, advocates and other experts have identified the need for a coordinated justice system response to domestic violence. Some of the earliest models for domestic violence prevention included Duluth, Minnesota, San Diego and San Francisco, California, and Quincy, Massachusetts.  These models established coordinating councils as a means for convening the justice system stakeholders on a regular basis. Although membership on these councils has varied depending on the particular jurisdiction’s justice system structure, the purpose of these councils has remained constant: to provide a forum for interagency communication and collaboration in identifying and addressing the strengths and weaknesses of the jurisdiction’s justice system response.

Although New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act [PDVA] first took effect in 1982, the formal development of coordinating councils did not begin until the late 1980s. In 1988, the Attorney General promulgated standards for the law enforcement response to domestic violence, and encouraged county prosecutors to develop formal working groups to assist in the implementation of these standards at the county and local level. Shortly after the issuance of these standards, the Judiciary, in conjunction with the Department of Law and Public Safety, developed a Domestic Violence Procedures Manual [DVPM] that specified standard operating procedures for both the criminal and civil justice responses to domestic violence. Existing local working groups were used for feedback, along with a state-level inter-agency advisory committee set up by the Chief Justice.

County-level DV Working Groups now exist throughout New Jersey.  The Essex County Domestic Violence Working Group (ECDVWG) meets regularly (8-10 meetings per year), and includes stakeholders representing direct service providers, law enforcement, the courts, and other interested agencies and individuals.  For more information please contact the Domestic Violent unit.

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What happens at the final hearing?
At the final hearing, the judge will hear testimony from both parties. At this time, it will be decided whether an act of domestic violence occurred and what types of relief should be granted to the victim.

Available reliefs include: protection from future violence, prohibitions against contact and harassment, custody of any minor children and safe conditions of parenting time, support, rent or mortgage payments, temporary possession of personal property, professional counseling and/or prohibition against weapon possession.

If there is evidence to support the victim’s complaint, a Final Restraining Order (FRO) will be issued to the victim. After the FRO has been issued, a copy of this order will be given to both parties. A file copy of the final order is also sent to the police department of the town where the victim lives.

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Can a criminal complaint be filed?

Yes. In addition to filing for a civil restraining order, the victim can file a criminal complaint. A criminal complaint can be filed at the police department or municipal court in the town where the violent incident occurred.

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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?

If the defendant violates any provisions in Part I of a TRO or FRO, (for example, calling you or appearing at your place of work, home or school), call the police immediately. Have your copy of the restraining order ready to show the police. Your abuser can be arrested and jailed. For violations of a provision in Part I of a TRO or FRO, and especially if the abuser violated the order by committing a crime (for example, stalking or harassing you) the local police must sign a criminal complaint for contempt. You have the right to call the police as many times as you need to when you are in danger from your attacker.

If the defendant violates a provision in Part II of a TRO or FRO (for example, failing to return personal property, failing to pay support or failing to attend domestic violence counseling), the victim should return to the Domestic Violence Unit to ask the court to enforce the order.
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?

To dismiss a restraining order, the victim must come to the Domestic Violence Unit any weekday before 3:30 p.m. She/He should bring identification (photo id if possible).

The victim will be interviewed by a victim advocate and a probation officer, and will testify before the judge as to why the restraining order should be dismissed.

If the judge is satisfied that the victim is withdrawing the complaint voluntarily, and not because of threats from the defendant, the court will dismiss the complaint. Both parties will be given copies of the dismissal.

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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 Essex County Bar Association at (973) 622-6204.

Listed below are organizations that offer legal assistance to plaintiffs:

Essex County Family Justice Center
Rachel Coalition
Partners for Women and Justice
American Friends Service Committee
Legal Services of New Jersey

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What if victims need shelter or other assistance?

For additional information, or assistance, victims may contact one of the following domestic violence programs in Essex County:

Rachel Coalition
Essex County Prosecutor’s Office

These programs provide supportive services and immediate access to emergency housing (shelter services). They can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the hotline numbers listed above. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Victim Witness Office also offers assistance to victims. They can be reached at (973) 621-4707.

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Where can batterers go for help?

For information regarding domestic violence education and counseling for males who have been abusive in their intimate or family relationships, please contact the Domestic Violence Unit at (973) 693-6619.

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