Relationships can turn sour quickly or slowly over time. Financial hardship, children, and differing philosophies regarding money and childrearing can tear down many short and long-term marriages. Substance abuse can also wear a relationship down. Spouses feel trapped, degraded, unwanted, and alone, often reacting in desperate ways to stay or leave the relationship, especially when one party files for divorce and the other resists the possibility of losing the life they know. Sometimes arguments escalate and violence occurs, a slap, a kick, a thrown object, or a brandished weapon. It may be the first time, or it may be one violent fight in a growing number of them. Once the police are called, however, you may be the subject of a restraining order. People in families, dating relationships, marriages, current or former shared living situations, and many others seek protection and face protection orders against them in New Jersey. If either of these applies to you, one of the most important things to know about is the available defenses and challenges that can be used in a restraining order case.

Temporary restraining orders are issued by a judge after a victim of one or more crimes enumerated in The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (the Act) appears before a judge, either by telephone or in person, and tells the judge what violence occurred. If the judge finds the victim, who is over 18 and in an intimate relationship with the abuser (spouse, ex-spouse, date, partner or parent of mutual children), suffered domestic violence and needs protection from further violence, the judge orders the temporary restraining order. If the judge finds the victim unbelievable or not a victim of one of the crimes listed in the Act, the restraining order is not granted. Typically, temporary restraining orders are granted.

Ten days after, a hearing to turn the temporary restraining order into a permanent order occurs.  At that hearing, you have an opportunity to challenge the victim’s portrayal of the facts and relationship to avoid the temporary order becoming permanent. To approve a final restraining order, the judge must find a predicate act of domestic violence occurred, meaning one of the 19 crimes listed in the Act, such as assault, harassment, stalking or lewd conduct, for example, that a history of such violence exists, and that the victim needs protection.

Ways to Challenge a Restraining Order in NJ

To overcome the necessary elements for a permanent protection order in New Jersey, an experienced restraining order defense attorney can help you defeat the plaintiff’s story and credibility. Your counsel may present evidence to show that a predicate act of domestic violence did not occur. Without evidence of physical injury through medical reports, photos, or other convincing evidence, a plaintiff may not be able to convince a judge by a preponderance of the evidence that a history of domestic violence exists between the parties. If the only evidence is plaintiff’s testimony of physical injury, harassment, stalking, or other predicate act, an important element of proving their case is a mere contest of each party’s word against the other’s. In that case, cross-examination of witnesses is critical, showing the plaintiff or other witness is not credible. Defenses may involve the alleged victim’s inconsistent assertions, faulty memory, or clear bias, to name a few strategies that place a witness’s testimony in question.

By attacking the credibility of plaintiff and their witnesses, your attorney can create questions in the judge’s mind about the other element, that the plaintiff is in danger from the defendant and needs protection from the court. To further place doubt, a good lawyer can show that no evidence exists to show prior domestic violence between the parties, and there are no police reports or prior domestic violence filings with the court. After creating doubt, you can clear the way to show ulterior motives. Not only may your attorney show that the violence that the plaintiff claims occurred did not rise to the required level of domestic violence or that the plaintiff is not reasonably afraid of future violence because the accused abuser is not a threat, but may also show the domestic violence complaint was filed to derail a divorce proceeding or to win custody of the children.

New Jersey Permanent Protection Order Consequences without the Proper Defense

If a final restraining order is granted, the judge may order the defendant to stay away from the plaintiff and their household or employer, to turn over any weapons the defendant possesses, to leave the residence where the plaintiff resides, to support the plaintiff and children, if applicable, to submit to a risk assessment before visiting with children, and to attend domestic violence counseling, among other necessary orders the judge sees fit under the circumstances. Some are required orders regardless of the case. For example, the defendant will be ordered not to possess weapons, barring their ability to have a firearms purchaser identification card, which is necessary to purchase firearms in New Jersey. Restraining orders are permanent, ending only when a court terminates the order upon a clear showing that the order is no longer needed. All provisions contained in the order are active while the restraining order is in effect.

Defense Lawyer Help with a Morris County Restraining Order Case

Given the high stakes of a permanent restraining order, you probably want to retain the most experienced defense attorney to challenge the plaintiff’s claims. Since a final restraining order often means limited contact with your children, being cut off from the family life you once enjoyed, never owning a weapon, and living under the threat of prosecution for violating the restraining order, you want to make sure your lawyer knows what to do to challenge the plaintiff’s side of the story, present your side persuasively, and advocate for your rights, including visiting with your children and retrieving your possessions. Contact a New Jersey restraining order defense lawyer who often defends clients in Morris County for dedicated guidance and representation now.