Do I Have Enough Evidence to Get A Restraining Order?

Relationships are hard, and disagreements are natural, but it isn’t normal for them to devolve to a point where one person fears the other. If you believe that you need protection from a domestic partner or spouse, your best bet is to get it legally through a restraining order.

In the state of New Jersey, there are two different types of restraining orders available through court order: temporary and final. Though a person who has a restraining order filed against them may feel that the legal order is being used against them, that is not its goal. The goal of a restraining order is to restore a sense of safety and security for the person who has requested it. In most cases, a temporary restraining order can be issued with little more proof than claims made by the victim. By contrast, in order to get a final restraining order, there’s a requirement of enough evidence to make the court believe it is “more likely than not” that the order is warranted. This is a lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” level of evidence required in a criminal case.

A temporary restraining order, or TRO, keeps the person it has been filed against from contacting or communicating with the person who filed the claim. Within ten days of it being issued there needs to be a hearing to determine whether it should be converted into a final restraining order, or FRO. At that hearing, which is held before a Superior Court Judge in the court’s Family Division, both sides are able to have an attorney represent them to argue for or against the order remaining in place.  The person who requested the restraining order generally provides all of the evidence that they can to prove that the abusive or harassing behavior has taken place. They can call witnesses and submit evidence ranging from text messages and voice mail messages to medical records or police reports.  The person who the restraining order is filed against can submit counter-evidence and witnesses and question any witnesses that the claimant offers to support their claim. The judge is able to ask questions as well and is the one to make the final decision.

In reaching their decision, the judge is tasked with considering three different elements of the evidence that’s presented:

  • Did domestic violence occur as a precipitator to the TRO?
  • Is there a history of domestic violence prior to the TRO?
  • Is the claimant reasonable in fearing for their safety?

A decision that favors the claimant then leads to specific prohibitions and rulings as needed in the situation. This may include forbidding contact, issues of custody of children or personal property, financial situation, and even weapons possession rulings.  These rulings can be made, even if the person the order is entered against doesn’t show up in court, and remains permanent until it is specifically removed by either the court or the claimant.

If you need protection and don’t know where to turn, we can help. Contact us today to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.