Morris County Domestic Violence Attorneys
Helping you rebuild safety and security
When people experience domestic violence, their lives quickly become complicated. Finding a way out of abusive situations isn’t easy and, for many, the effects of domestic abuse are long-lasting. It impacts your mental health, physical well-being, ability to build relationships, and more.
If you’ve been falsely accused of domestic violence, the effects are different, but they can be equally painful, and they can also have long-lasting effects. A false accusation of domestic violence can ruin your reputation, impact your livelihood, and damage your personal relationships.
In either situation, you don’t have to live in fear of what comes next.
Legal action can provide you with a way to defend yourself. It can also provide closure for a difficult period in your life.
With decades of combined domestic violence experience among our attorneys, we at Jacobs Berger, LLC have the knowledge and familiarity with the court system to help you regain your freedom and your security.
Take the steps you need to ensure your safety. Schedule a strategic planning session with our team today.
What is domestic violence?
Everyone has an idea of what domestic violence is, but it’s often a limited picture. New Jersey state laws defining it are expansive, allowing for wide interpretation.
According to New Jersey Revised Statutes, domestic violence can include incidents involving “homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment, stalking, criminal coercion, robbery, contempt of a court order related to domestic violence, or any other criminal activity.”
Domestic violence can impact anyone. For a crime to be considered domestic violence, though, the offender has to be a spouse, parent, former spouse, romantic partner, or household member at the time of an incident.
We help victims find legal solutions for protecting their families and themselves.
Domestic Violence & Child Custody
Domestic violence is the last thing you want your children to be exposed to. You want to keep your children safe, secure, and happy.
The child custody and domestic violence attorneys at Jacobs Berger understand how dangerous and stressful domestic violence situations are for parents. Our experience helps us focus on our clients’ mental well-being and physical safety. Our firm is dedicated to approaching each scenario with level-headed professionalism and compassion.
Protect your children from the impacts of domestic violence. Contact our experienced attorneys today.
How does domestic violence impact child custody?
Regardless of the issues involved, New Jersey family courts always put the best interests of the children above all else. Any potential risk to children, such as domestic violence or exposure to domestic violence, is taken extremely seriously.
That being said, all situations are unique and judges consider a wide range of factors before coming to a decision:
- Who were the victims of previous domestic violence incidents? Parents? Children? Other family members?
- What was the nature of the domestic violence—i.e., assault, criminal mischief, harassment?
- How many times did the violent behavior occur?
- How long ago did the domestic violence take place?
- Does the offending parent have a criminal record? Are they still seen as a danger to children or other family members?
Each family’s history is different. If one co-parent has a record of previous domestic violence convictions or restraining orders, this may impact child custody proceedings, or it may not. Our experienced child custody lawyers can help you understand and protect your rights while prioritizing your child’s safety.
Temporary Restraining Orders
One of the first steps in protecting yourself after domestic violence or abuse is to get a restraining order. Restraining orders prevent the abuser from contacting or approaching their victim, and if they live in the same home, the abuser is required to leave.
Temporary restraining orders (TROs) are the first step in obtaining a final restraining order. The proof required for a TRO is less extensive than what is required for a permanent restraining order, and TROs can provide domestic violence victims access to protection more quickly.
If you’re experiencing an emergency or you need immediate protection outside of court operating hours, contact your local police department by calling 911. The police will contact an on-call judge and help you to secure protection regardless of the time.
TROs, however, are easier to misuse when innocent parties are accused of domestic violence—but whether you’re the victim of domestic violence or falsely accused of it, moving quickly to protect yourself and your rights, as well are your children, is important.
How do I get a temporary restraining order in NJ?
The first step is to file a complaint with either your county courthouse, the county courthouse of your abuser, or the county courthouse where the abuse occurred. For example, for domestic violence incidents in Madison, Randolph, Hanover, Florham Park, Morristown, or anywhere in Morris County, you should go to the Morris County Courthouse.
You’ll be required to provide a form of identification and information about your abuser. This may include—but does not require—their address, phone numbers, place of employment, license plate number, a description of their vehicle, whether or not they possess a firearm, and any history of drug or alcohol abuse they may have.
You have the option to fill out forms in advance or at the courthouse. Remember that the county clerk can provide you paperwork, but they can’t offer legal advice.
Once your forms, documents, and other relevant information are submitted, your TRO request will go before a judge. If your allegations are sufficient, they’ll issue a TRO and a date for a Final Restraining Order hearing, typically within 10 days.
Violating a TRO or a Final Restraining Order (FRO) will result in a contempt offense. Contempts are also considered acts of domestic violence on their own and can increase penalties if found valid by the court. Depending on the severity of the violation, it may result in criminal charges.
Take the steps you need to ensure your safety. Contact our experienced attorneys today to get legal support for your Temporary Restraining Order.
Final Restraining Orders (FROs)
For domestic violence victims, safety is paramount. Whether the threat is physical, mental, or emotional, keeping your abuser at bay will allow you the space you need to heal.
A Temporary Restraining Order can start that process, but a Final Restraining Order will provide lasting legal protection.
An FRO is the permanent restraining order issued within 10 days (subject to the court’s schedule) of a Temporary Restraining Order. However, before this can happen, a court hearing must take place. During the hearing, the accused party (the defendant) and the victim (the plaintiff) have the opportunity to present evidence and testimony.
In New Jersey, FROs last indefinitely, which makes experienced legal counsel all the more important. An experienced domestic violence attorney can help you prepare the strongest possible case, as well as make sure you have the support you need during this challenging time.
What to expect during an FRO hearing?
Court hearings are stressful and overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the process, and especially where such sensitive topics are being addressed. For domestic violence cases, this is especially true. Understanding how the process works can help you prepare yourself for what to expect, making it easier to move forward.
During a Final Restraining Order hearing, both parties provide evidence about the domestic violence allegations. This can include photos, medical records, police reports, and third-party witness and character testimony.
Before the judge issues the Final Restraining Order, though, they look to verify three specific factors:
- That the parties have a relationship that qualifies under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act
- That the accused has committed a predicate act of domestic violence
- That continuing legal restraints are needed to prevent future acts of domestic violence
The FRO hearing process is an involved court procedure with evidence presentation and examinations. It’s easy to feel intimidated by the procedure, but our experienced domestic violence attorneys are committed to helping you through this challenging period.
What are the consequences of a final restraining order in NJ?
FROs are permanent. There’s no expiration date on them or the protections they provide you. An FRO will protect you from:
- Being contacted or harassed by your abuser
- Having others, which can include your children, family, or employer contacted by your abuser
It also affects your abuser in a number of significant ways. An FRO issued against them can:
- Negatively impact current or pending child custody agreements
- Prevent the purchase or possession of a firearm
- Affect reimbursement of court-related financial losses
- Lead to mandatory drug or alcohol counseling
- Result in the loss of their job if they work for a state or federal institution
- Place any licenses they may hold through the state in jeopardy
Can a final restraining order be dismissed?
Generally, no. All FROs in New Jersey are permanent. If you’ve secured an FRO for your safety, you don’t need to do anything to maintain it.
However, FROs can be dismissed through a motion to vacate the order. This is a difficult process, though, with stringent requirements for both parties to meet. The accused needs to provide the court a transcript for the original FRO hearing AND demonstrate that:
- There’s good cause for the orders to be dismissed
- Circumstances between the two parties have significantly changed and the protection of the FRO isn’t necessary anymore
If you originally secured the FRO for your own safety, and now you want to dismiss it, there are several steps you’ll need to take before having the FRO dismissed. First, speak with a court official. They’ll determine whether:
- The request to dismiss the order is voluntary
- You understand the consequences of removing the restraining order
They’ll also make sure you understand the nature of the domestic violence cycle and the feelings of guilt that often occur within the victim. However, if the court representative believes everything is in order, you’ll sign a Certification to Dissolve a Restraining Order.
Once this is complete, you’ll be able to speak to a judge about dismissing the order.
False Allegations of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a serious legal matter in New Jersey. It’s a quasi-criminal charge that can affect child custody and result in restraining orders—or, depending on the type of violence or contempt, even jail time.
Domestic violence victims deserve full protection under the law, but when an individual is falsely accused of domestic violence, it’s important to work quickly to clear your name so you can protect your own rights.
Working with an experienced domestic violence attorney can help you understand your legal options. They may include:
- Requesting a continuance to allow sufficient time to prepare your case
- Providing and/or refuting evidence such as medical records, witness testimony, written statements, and more
- Calling character witnesses to testify
- Arguing that your relationship doesn’t meet the requirements of the New Jersey Domestic Violence Act
- Demonstrating that your actions were in self-defense and not in violation of domestic violence statutes
How might false allegations impact my child custody?
This is a scary thought for parents falsely accused of domestic violence. Child custody hearings take into consideration a history of domestic violence when rendering decisions about the best arrangements for children.
False accusations aren’t only a liability for the accused, however. If a parent falsely accuses another of domestic violence, this intentionally misleading act could call their ability to care properly for the children into question.
Contact an experienced family law attorney today!
At Jacobs Berger, LLC, our domestic violence attorneys have extensive experience in prosecuting and defending domestic violence cases of all kinds throughout New Jersey.
Take the steps you need to ensure your safety. Schedule a strategic planning session with an experienced attorney today.