WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

In New Jersey domestic violence is defined as the occurrence of any of the following acts by an adult or an emancipated minor: Assault, sexual assault, homicide, terroristic threats, harassment, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, criminal restraint, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary or criminal trespass.

WHO MAY FILE A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACTION IN NEW JERSEY?

Any person 18 years of age or older who has been subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or by any present or former household member. Emancipated minors also may file. The definition of victims who may file a domestic violence action also includes any person, regardless of age, who has been subjected to domestic violence by: – a person with whom the victim has a child in common; – a person with whom the victim anticipates having a child in common; – a person with whom the victim has had a dating relationship.

INITIATING THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROCEDURES

Domestic Violence complaints are filed with the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the New Jersey Superior Court. No official forms are provided with this overview because Victims will be assisted in filing their Complaint by the Family Part Intake Officer or by a Municipal Court Judge. A complaint may be filed with the assistance of a Family Part Intake Officer during normal business hours. A Municipal Court Judge is assigned to accept complaints and issue emergency relief on weekends, holidays, and all other times when the court is closed. Victims may also receive assistance and instructions by calling their local police department. The rules also allow the victim to seek a Temporary Restraining Order and give sworn testimony to the judge by telephone, radio or other available means of electronic communication.

WHERE TO FILE:

Domestic Violence actions may be filed in: – the county where either plaintiff or defendant reside; – the county where the domestic violence offense took place; – the county where the victim (plaintiff) is sheltered.
EMERGENCY RELIEF AND TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDERS
The judge shall issue a Temporary Restraining Order when the applicant (victim) appears to be in danger of danger of domestic violence. Temporary Restraining Orders may be issued ex parte when necessary to protect the life, health or well-being of a victim. The term “ex parte” simply means that the judge may hear the complaint and testimony of the victim and issue an order without the defendant (alleged abuser) being present. Victims filing an action should be aware that ex parte restraining orders are only temporary, and the Final Restraining Order will generally be issued only after a final hearing is held, and the defendant has an opportunity to present his or her side of the story.

FINAL RESTRAINING ORDERS

A Final Restraining Order shall be issued only on a specific finding of domestic violence or on a stipulation by a defendant to the commission of an act or acts of domestic violence as defined by the statute.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HEARINGS ( This refers to the final hearing, not the “ex parte” hearing)

A domestic violence hearing must be held within 10 days of the filing of the Complaint. Both parties will have an opportunity to present evidence including sworn testimony of the parties and witnesses, medical bills and/or reports, repair estimates and other proof of damages caused by the domestic violence. The party that prevails will generally be the party which offers the most convincing evidence. At the hearing the Court must consider the following factors: – Previous history of domestic violence between the parties including threats, harassment and physical abuse; – immediate danger to person(s) or property.financial circumstances of the parties; – the best interest of the victim and any child or children who may be involved; – protection of the victim’s safety in the event that the Court awards custody or visitation; and – previous orders of protection, including orders of protection from other jurisdictions.

REMEDIES AND RELIEF PROVIDED BY COURTS IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES

If the Court finds that domestic violence has occurred, it may grant many forms of relief including the following: 1. Restraining the defendant form subjecting the victim to domestic violence; 2. Granting the victim exclusive possession of the residence or household regardless of ownership, including payment of rent; 3. Order investigation of the risk of harm to a child or children, and issuing an appropriate parenting order; 4. Awarding damages to the victim. Damages include, but are not limited to: -loss of earnings or other support; -out-of-pocket losses for injuries; -cost of repair or replacement of real estate or personal property damaged or destroyed; -cost of counseling for the victim; -moving or other travel expenses; -reasonable attorney’s fees; -court costs; and -compensation for pain and suffering and/or punitive damages. 5. Counseling and/or anger counseling; 6. Ordering defendant not to enter victim’s residence, property, school and/or place of employment. 7. Prohibiting contact with the victim directly or through third persons;8. Rent or mortgage payments, but only if this issue is not already resolved or pending in some other court action; 9. Temporary possession of personal property, such as automobiles; 10. Emergency monetary relief including child support; 11. Temporary custody of a minor child; 12. Supervision of the removal of personal belongings; 13. Monitoring of the Final Order by the Family Part Intake Unit; 14. Preventing the defendant from possessing firearms or weapons; 15. Order the defendant not to stalk, follow or threaten harm to the victim or any other person named in the order; and 16. Psychiatric evaluation of the defendant.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER IS VIOLATED BY DEFENDANT?

If police have probable cause to arrest a defendant for violating a domestic violence order, the officer shall arrest defendant and sign a contempt complaint against defendant. A violation of a domestic violence order constitutes contempt of court. A person convicted of a second or subsequent domestic violence contempt offense shall serve a mandatory minimum term of not less than 30 days. THE INFORMATION AND FORMS PROVIDED ON THIS WEBSITE ARE MEANT TO GIVE GENERAL INFORMATION AND IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. ANYONE FILING ANY KIND OF COURT ACTION, INCUDING A PROTECTION FROM ABUSE PETITION, SHOULD SEEK ADVICE FROM AN ATTORNEY IF POSSIBLE. IF YOU CAN NOT AFFORD AN ATTORNEY THEN YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RECEIVE FREE LEGAL ASSISTANCE BY CONTACTING YOUR LOCAL LEGAL SERVICES OFFICE OR BY REQUESTING ASSISTANCE FROM ANY COURT IN YOUR AREA.

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