UNDERSTANDING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN MIDDLESEX COUNTY: PREVENTION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT AND FINAL RESTRAINING ORDER
What is domestic violence?
Abuse can take many forms, whether it is physical, emotional, verbal, or financial. It can be difficult to understand what exactly constitutes domestic violence under NJ law, but it is important to know if you believe you are facing a harmful situation.
Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) of 1991, there are 14 criminal offenses: homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment, or stalking.
These are considered to be domestic violence acts when they occur between two or more adults who are currently in or have been in some type of intimate or familial relationship. This includes dating relationships, marriages, household members, or two people who have a child in common.
This act protects individuals regardless of their gender, immigration status, marital status, or any other factor.
What is a restraining order?
Typically, when an act of domestic violence occurs in Middlesex County, a temporary restraining order (TRO) is issued by either the police who respond to the incident or the family court, if the police have not been involved. This usually lasts for a minimum period of about one week, giving both parties time to consult an attorney should they choose. When the TRO is issued, a court date will be provided for a final hearing. The most recent act of domestic violence is examined first, but past history demonstrating the escalation of abuse also plays a role in the court’s decision.
If domestic violence is found to be present, a final restraining order (FRO) is granted. This provides the victim with protection by making it a criminal offense for the abuser to violate. Any contact, even in the form of a phone call, can result in arrest, giving the victim a greater sense of comfort and safety. In New Jersey, a final restraining order is a permanent order that does not have to be renewed after a certain period of time like in many other states; it will also be honored if the victim moves to another state.
Although violating a final restraining order is a criminal offense, simply having one in place does not eliminate the option to negotiate parenting time, and does not effect a person’s employment eligibility or criminal record. Many victims choose not to follow through with a final restraining order fearing these consequences for their partner, spouse, or family member, but unless it is violated, it will serve only as protection and not as a means to “ruin” another’s life.
While this process can be undertaken alone, it is commonly a very emotional and confusing time for the victim or plaintiff, making the presence of an attorney very beneficial.
It is important to remember that even though one of the 14 acts of domestic violence may not be occurring directly, abuse can still be present and should be addressed. Domestic violence includes subtle factors that cannot always be seen by those who are not directly involved in the relationship. Many abusers exercise power and control in various ways to isolate, intimidate, and coerce their victims, making it more difficult for them to seek help. When children are involved, battling domestic violence with a knowledgeable attorney becomes even more crucial, as remaining in an unhealthy situation can have a severely negative impact.
At Armour Law Firm we have the experience and sensitivity to deal with domestic violence and understand how it can affect other legal matters such as divorce, mediation, child custody, and child support.