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What’s the Difference Between Restraining Orders and No-Contact Orders in New Jersey?

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

When high-conflict or abusive relationships escalate, the at-risk person can struggle with figuring out a route to safety. Safety can look like a secure home, sufficient family or community support, financial security, and measures to ensure physical security. In these situations, restraining orders or no-contact orders can offer an additional level of protection. 

But what are the purposes of restraining and no-contact orders, and how can they be used to protect at-risk individuals?

Restraining orders and no-contact orders are two different things, but both are designed to protect individuals during a court investigation. Both orders can result in criminal charges if violated, but while they have a similar intent, there are some key differences between them. 

It can be stressful to navigate the legal system while also dealing with an emotional and high-conflict domestic situation. That’s why it’s highly recommended that you work with an experienced restraining order attorney or domestic violence attorney whether you require protection or have been falsely accused of domestic violence.  

What is a restraining order?

Many people are surprised to find out that a restraining order is often a civil order imposed through family court—not a criminal order. (Though criminal restraining orders may be granted at times, such as in the case of a criminal no-contact order.)

Intended to protect victims of domestic violence, restraining orders limit contact between two parties. A restraining order can include a number of restrictions. The party on the receiving end of a restraining order may be prohibited from:

  • Coming into contact with the other party or related persons to the victim
  • Visiting certain listed locations
  • Possessing a firearm
  • Communicating with the other party through any medium, including phone calls, emails, social media, or through another person

In cases of domestic violence, the court may add provisions regarding a child the parties have in common. The court may also require one party to pay medical expenses that result from domestic violence and provide a specific timeframe for the alleged perpetrator to collect their belongings and vacate a shared residence. The restraining orders can also include provisions for paying bills, support, and other financial concerns.

New Jersey has two types of restraining orders: temporary and permanent. 

  • A temporary restraining order (TRO) can be imposed for a specific period of time to prevent contact and other restrictions between the alleged victim and perpetrator until the court can review the case further. 
  • A final restraining order (FRO) can be ordered by a judge if they deem it necessary to keep the victim (and potentially their family) safe from future abuse or harm. 

The proofs required to obtain a TRO are less extensive than those required for a permanent restraining order and can provide domestic violence victims access to immediate protection. Temporary orders, however, are easier to misuse when innocent parties are accused of domestic violence. 

Whether you’re the victim of domestic violence or falsely accused of it, it is critical to move quickly and work with an experienced family law attorney to protect yourself and your rights, as well as to protect your children.

What is a no-contact order?

A no-contact order results from criminal charges involving an alleged victim of a crime, such as domestic violence. 

Often a condition of bail, no-contact orders are up to the discretion of a judge. The judge setting the bail can use the no-contact order to impose restrictions and limit contact with certain individuals. In Morris County and the rest of New Jersey, no-contact orders are not required, and the alleged victim can also request the removal of a no-contact order. 

If there is a no-contact order in place and the alleged perpetrator violates it, this can have a number of repercussions:

  • The alleged perpetrator may forfeit their bail
  • The alleged perpetrator may be held in contempt of court
  • The judge may impose additional penalties on the alleged perpetrator, in addition to the existing charges

Key differences between a restraining order and no-contact order in New Jersey

Processes and procedures

While restraining orders and no-contact orders are similar, they are decided through different areas of the court. A restraining order is procured through a civil proceeding, often through family court. As they are issued in a civil court, typically for domestic abuse, there may not be any criminal charges associated with the order. 

No-contact orders are generally the result of criminal charges issued by the judge presiding over a case. Because they stem from criminal charges, no-contact orders can be issued for cases where victims may need protection, not just domestic abuse or violence.


Another key difference between the two orders is time. A TRO is indefinite in New Jersey until both parties appear in court and a judge determines if a final restraining order (FRO) is necessary. A FRO is permanent, though it’s possible to appeal with the help of an experienced domestic violence attorney. On the other hand, no-contact orders are binding and permanent—they can only be removed by a district attorney or the judge for that case. 

Penalties and consequences

While they may have different provisions and requirements, both types of orders can come with criminal penalties for violations. A person who violates a restraining order or no-contact order may be held in contempt of court and charged with a crime that could result in incarceration. If the conduct that caused the violation is a crime, the party may also face additional penalties. 

In addition to criminal charges, no-contact orders or final restraining orders can have additional implications for the accused, including the loss of a government job, drug or alcohol counseling mandates, and negative impacts on any current or pending child custody cases. 

The domestic violence attorneys at Jacobs Berger are here to help

It is critical to understand the implications and conditions of both restraining and no-contact orders, whether you feel that you require them for your family’s safety, or if you find yourself defending against such an order. 

At Jacobs Berger, LLC, our domestic violence attorneys have extensive experience in prosecuting and defending domestic violence cases throughout New Jersey.

Take the steps you need to ensure your safety and reclaim your future. Schedule a strategic planning session with an experienced attorney today.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.