The impact of having a Final Restraining Order entered by the Court can be life-altering for both the victim and the accused abuser. Having a Final Restraining Order (FRO) issued can impact every area of the defendant’s life, including their job, living situation, parenting time, constitutional rights, and reputation.
Because a final restraining order severely—and permanently—restricts a person’s rights, the Superior Court doesn’t issue this type of order lightly. Substantial evidence is needed, including proof that an act, or acts, of domestic violence occurred and that the protections are necessary to keep the victim from future harm.
For a victim of domestic violence, though, obtaining a Final Restraining Order in New Jersey can be a matter of life or death.
If you’re seeking a Final Restraining Order in NJ, contact Jacobs Berger immediately for your initial coordination call.
When does a temporary restraining order become a final restraining order?
A Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing is generally scheduled approximately ten days after a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is established. At the FRO hearing, the judge will determine whether the Temporary Restraining Order should be dismissed or become a Final Restraining Order.
Who Attends a FRO Hearing?
Ideally, the following parties should be present at a FRO hearing:
- Defendant (person accused of domestic violence)
- Defendant’s attorney
- Plaintiff (person protected by the Temporary Restraining Order)
- Plaintiff’s attorney
A judge can still order a FRO without the defendant present (by holding the defendant in default for failing to appear) but obtaining one is unlikely if the plaintiff doesn’t attend.
What happens at an FRO hearing?
At the FRO hearing, the plaintiff or their attorney presents evidence demonstrating the need for a permanent restraining order. This evidence can include
- Plaintiff’s own testimony as to the incident(s) showing that an act or acts of domestic violence occurred
- Photos or videos of injuries and/or property damage
- Audio or video recordings of conversations or acts indicating violence
- Witnesses to any acts of domestic violence
If the Plaintiff is requesting, along with the protections of an FRO, the Court to address custody/parenting time, financial support and other relief, the plaintiff may also provide the judge with financial information to support those requests.
The defendant or their attorney can also provide evidence at this time to prove that the TRO should be dismissed instead.
If the judge determines that the TRO should be replaced with a FRO, the new order will take effect immediately, and the defendant is deemed to have known about the changes as soon as they are served with the Order—typically the same day as the hearing.
Knowing the terms of a final restraining order
While Final Restraining Orders have similar provisions in different cases, they are not all identical.
The exact terms of a FRO in NJ can vary depending on many factors, including:
- Specific acts of domestic violence
- The relationship between the parties
- Whether children are involved
- The judge’s discretion
Because the consequences for violating a FRO are severe, it’s crucial that both parties understand what is and is not allowed under the order.
Final Restraining Orders have been known to include provisions that:
- Stop the defendant from visiting specific locations, such as the protected person’s home, school, or place of employment
- Prevent the defendant from contacting any other person protected by the order, whether in person, in writing, online, or by phone or going by that person’s home, school, or place of employment
- Specify a minimum distance that the defendant must maintain between themselves and the protected individual(s) at all times
- Prevent the defendant from purchasing or possessing weapons and requiring that all weapons the defendant already holds be surrendered (if that didn’t happen after the issuance of the TRO)
- Order the defendant to pay child support, spousal support, or medical costs
- Limit the defendant’s access of real or personal property, such as disallowing them from residing at a home
- Require that the defendant undergo mental health evaluations, substance abuse evaluations, domestic violence counseling, anger management, or other behavioral interventions
An FRO may also impact the defendant’s child custody, visitation, or parental rights, though this is usually temporary.
To prevent further acts of domestic violence, most FROs in New Jersey bar the defendant from handling or owning a firearm. The defendant may be ordered to forfeit their Firearms Identification Card and all weapons in their possession.
The defendant may even be forced to give up inherited weapons, as well as the hobbies of hunting and target shooting.
Depending on the circumstances (branch of military and terms of employment), an FRO may or may not be grounds for military discharge or termination from employment on its own. Even if an individual is not terminated from their job, any firearms restrictions associated with the FRO still apply during official duties. As such, a FRO can severely limit a defendant’s professional life if they have careers in the military or law enforcement.
Final Restraining Orders in New Jersey can grant protected persons sole physical use and occupancy of a defendant’s personal property. For example, the judge may grant a victim of domestic violence sole use and occupancy of a home, even if the defendant’s name is on the deed.
A judge may also grant the protected person sole use of the family vehicle.
Domestic violence registry
Sometimes, the defendant is simultaneously charged with a crime for the act of domestic violence in New Jersey, which includes:
- Terroristic threats
- Criminal restraining
- False imprisonment
- Sexual assault
- Criminal sexual contact
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal trespass
- Criminal coercion
If criminal charges are brought against the defendant, they will be handled by the State of New Jersey, often in municipal court but depending on the severity of the act and the associated charge, can take place in the Superior Court as well.
Even if the defendant isn’t charged criminally, if an FRO is entered against them, they will be fingerprinted, photographed, and registered with the New Jersey and National Domestic Violence Registry.
The financial impact of a final restraining order
When a FRO is issued, the defendant may be ordered to pay a fine of between $50 and $500. The defendant may also be ordered to pay for the protected person’s household bills, medical bills, lost earnings, and attorney fees.
Although FROs in New Jersey don’t appear on a standard criminal background check, the entry of an FRO is considered a quasi-criminal finding. Some employers conduct a more detailed search during the hiring process, especially if the job involves working with vulnerable populations. In this way, a FRO can limit the defendant’s job prospects and income.
Consequences of violating a final restraining order
Violating a Final Restraining Order is a crime that the state of New Jersey does not take lightly. If a person is accused of violating an FRO, depending on the nature of the violation, it is likely that either a Summons or Warrant will be issued, and the violating party could be arrested. Following their arrest, there will be a court hearing to determine whether the restraining order was, in fact, violated.
Depending on the outcome of the hearing, the defendant may be held in contempt of court and can be charged with an indictable offense (felony), which includes up to eighteen months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. If the underlying violation was an act of domestic violence, the violating party may be charged with both acts of domestic violence and contempt.
A subsequent FRO violation may result in a mandatory and immediate jail sentence of at least 30 days.
In need of protection? Jacobs Berger can help
At Jacobs Berger, we’re proud to provide skilled, compassionate legal representation that’s tailored to your unique circumstances.
Whether you’re a victim in need of protection or have been wrongly accused of domestic violence, our team of knowledgeable family law attorneys is prepared to fight for your safety, your rights, and your future.
If you have questions about obtaining or fighting an FRO in New Jersey, don’t wait. Schedule your initial coordination call today.