If you are in fear for your safety, you should immediately call 911 for police to come to your home or you should go to the nearest police station and explain your situation to the police. Police are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. The police will assist you and will be in touch with a judge who is assigned to handle such emergent matters.
If you are not in immediate fear of your safety, you can discuss the matter with a family law attorney who can advise you of your rights and options.
If you obtain a Temporary Restraining Order, the Restraining Order will probably provide that the alleged perpetrator is prohibited from returning to the scene of the violence, prohibited from contacting you, and prohibited from future acts of domestic violence. This means that if the perpetrator lives in your home with you, he or she will probably be escorted out of the home by the police. If the alleged perpetrator is served with these papers outside of the home, he or she will probably be permitted to return to the home on one occasion, in the accompaniment of police, to retrieve some clothing and personal effects. Weapons may be confiscated by the police. The alleged perpetrator may also be ordered to provide emergent relief. Importantly, the Temporary Restraining Order grants to the victim temporary possession of the home and temporary custody of the children. It also lists a date and time for final hearing.
At the final hearing you will be permitted to take the stand and, under oath, describe the incident to the judge. You may also call witnesses. The alleged perpetrator will also be permitted to take the stand and, under oath, give his or her version of the incident. The perpetrator can also call witnesses on his or her behalf. The Judge will then have to determine whether or not an act of domestic violence occurred.
An act of domestic violence can consist of any one of the following: homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment and/ or stalking (2C:25-19).
If the judge finds that no act of domestic violence occurred, the matter will be dismissed and all restraints will be dissolved. If the judge finds that an act of domestic violence occurred, the judge will convert the temporary restraints into permanent restraints. Again, the Court will order certain restraints to provide for the protection of the victim, possession of the residence and of an automobile, and custody of the children. The Order may provide for temporary support which can be in the form of payment of the mortgage or rent, continuation of insurances, payment of medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, punitive damages and counsel fees. The final restraining order can also order a risk assessment for the protection of the children, visitation of children, and/or professional domestic violence counseling for the perpetrator.
Since a final hearing is in some ways similar to a trial, you may want to hire an attorney to represent you. The entry of a final restraining order against a perpetrator has far-reaching consequences.
In this state, our prevention of a domestic violence act is intended not only to protect spouses or cohabitants, but also the elderly. Persons protected under this act include any person who is 18 years of age or older, or who is an emancipated minor, and who had been subject to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or any other person who is a present or former household member, or a person with whom the victim has a child in common (2C:25-17). You can see that the class of people protected under New Jersey’s domestic violence law goes far beyond husband and wife.
The exact definition of these acts of domestic violence goes far beyond the parameters of this article. The explanation would entail definitions and the Court’s interpretation of those definitions. Judges ultimately decide whether or not an act of domestic violence has occurred. However, police, family law attorneys, and psychologists have been trained to handle domestic violence matters. All of these professionals are available to assist anyone who believes that they are a victim of domestic violence.
This article was written to give a very general overview of domestic violence in New Jersey, and certainly not to give advice. Anyone who has questions should contact the appropriate authorities or professional.