Criminal Mischief

What is a Restraining Order and How Does It Work?

When a judge has reason to believe that someone is in danger, either psychologically or physically, they often issue a restraining order against whoever threatens them. A restraining order’s main goal is to prevent contact between the two parties. They are most often issued during domestic violence cases, but can also be issued in other cases of harassment or physical violence. There are two types of restraining orders, and each is personalized to fit the situation. A New Jersey attorney can help you understand the specifics of your restraining order. 

When is a Restraining Order Issued?

The court will take every case into consideration, and anyone can apply for a restraining order. Most often, restraining orders are issued when someone has been physically harmed or stalked/harassed. The two types of restraining orders have varying qualifications to be officially issued.

Ex-Parte

A full restraining order takes time to issue, so victims often file for an ex-parte restraining order. These temporary orders can be issued immediately by a judge upon hearing testimony from the victim. The defendant does not need to be present for the ex-parte order to be issued. These orders are meant to protect victims during an emergency situation and contain limited restrictions. Ex-parte orders become invalid once a full restraining order is issued or a set time has expired.

Full 

A full restraining order takes more time and effort to obtain. In order to get one issued, the victim is required to attend a court hearing with evidence and testimony of abuse/harassment. A judge will then examine all present evidence to determine if a restraining order is necessary and, if so, what it should entail. Defendants are allowed to state their own case during the process, but courts are not required to alert them of the proceedings until the judge officially issues the order. The judge will determine how long the restraining order lasts, which can be indefinite.

Photo by Saúl Bucio on Unsplash

What Does a Restraining Order Prevent?

Restraining orders can include a variety of court-ordered conditions for the defendant. Most of the orders are issued to ensure the safety of the victim and prevent further harm or harassment. If you feel that part of your issued restraining order doesn’t fit that goal, contact your New Jersey attorney to discuss your options. The restraining order specifics can differ between the temporary, ex-parte orders, and full orders.

Ex-Parte

Ex-parte orders are designed to protect victims from immediate threats and danger. Specifications under ex-parte orders include:

  • Prohibiting the defendant from returning to the scene of domestic violence
  • Allowing law enforcement to search suspect locations and seize weapons found
  • Relocate and place pets and minor children in safe possession

Full

Full restraining orders are designed to prevent future violence or harassment past the initial situation. These prohibitions are meant to protect the victim and any shared assets between the parties. Restraining order issues prevent:

  • Any kind of physical violence
  • Communication with the victim or a member of their household (be it face-to-face, phone call, email, etc.)
  • Possession of firearms
  • Threatening or otherwise interfering with the custody agreements of children and pets
  • Entering the victim’s place of residence, school, or work

Violating any of these puts a defendant in contempt of the restraining order. 

What Do I Do if I Have a Restraining Order?

Getting a restraining order can sometimes be confusing. You may not always understand why someone is seeking protection from you. However, it’s important not to let your initial shock or anger further upset the situation. When you receive a restraining order, you have to follow its directives. This means avoiding contact with the issuing party, no matter how much you want to discuss the situation with them. It may seem like the whole issue is a misunderstanding, but if you attempt to approach or contact the issuer, you are violating your restraining order and could face strict penalties.

Can I Reverse a Restraining Order?

When a final, full restraining order is issued, it is in effect indefinitely, unless the judge sets a specified timeframe for it. There are, however, two ways that a final restraining order can be vacated. Firstly, if the victim wishes, he or she may make a request with the court to vacate the restraining order. A defendant may also file a motion with the Superior Court, Family Division to have a restraining order lifted.

In order to vacate a restraining order on a defendant’s claim, a judge will reassess the situation and consider the same factors as when the order was first issued. Factors that can influence a judge’s decision include:

  • If the defendant is involved with drugs or alcohol
  • How many times the defendant was found in contempt of the order
  • Whether or not the defendant has attended counseling sessions since the order was filed
  • The defendant’s criminal record, including recent acts of violence

After considering the situation and hearing from both parties, a judge may choose to lift the order or possibly issue a less strict order instead.

Should I Hire a New Jersey Attorney for a Restraining Order?

Hiring an attorney in any legal situation is always a good idea. When you get a restraining order, you will have the chance to attend a hearing where you can state your case and get answers about the situation. While the court is a safe and controlled environment, you’ll want your own lawyer present to help ensure your rights are protected. This order can affect all aspects of your life, including your income, property, and custody of children or pets. 

If you were issued a restraining order, contact Attorney Leon Matchin today. As an experienced and knowledgeable New Jersey attorney, he’ll help you understand the specifics of your order and what your next steps are. Attorney Matchin will fight for you in court to ensure your rights are protected. To schedule a consultation about your case, contact Attorney Matchin today at (833) 732-7320, or email him at leon@matchin.intersectwp.com.

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