New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act protects victims of violence that occurs between a spouse, former spouse, household member or individuals involved in a dating relationship. These acts often occur in a shared home and can even involve children which may necessitate a party to take additional steps beyond filing or responding to a complaint. Unfortunately, claims of domestic violence can also be misused in an effort to obtain an unfair advantage in other issues. Legal representation can make a significant difference in ensuring each party, as well as their family members, are protected. An experienced attorney can assist in the following ways:

1. Ensure documentation is properly prepared and procedures followed. A victim of domestic violence may complete a domestic violence complaint for a temporary restraining order (or “TRO”). The victim must fill out paperwork as well as provide testimony to a judge or hearing officer justifying the entry of a TRO. At the Final Restraining Order stage, additional information may be required. An experienced attorney can provide guidance and assist with this confusing process. This is particularly important because the parties are typically under significant stress and may misunderstand the necessary steps required in a domestic violence proceeding. If Court procedures are not properly followed, the entire case can be dismissed.

2. Protect the rights of the parties at the Final Restraining Order (or “FRO”) Hearing. At the time of the FRO hearing, the Court determines whether the TRO should be made permanent. The decision has serious consequences for both parties. For the defendant, losing at the hearing may result in being permanently barred from the home, prohibited from any contact with the victim, face jail time and his or her name will be entered into the domestic violence database. For the victim, losing the restraining order may put him or her at risk of harm. Parenting time can also be affected. Legal counsel can explain the process, aid in preparing for the hearing, help explain the pros and cons of alternatives to a Restraining Order, such as “Civil Restraints,” and help protect against inappropriate cross-examination.

3. Guide parties in pursuing other remedies. In addition to obtaining a Final Restraining Order, the victim has the option to seek other relief including possession of the home, child and spousal support, child custody and supervised parenting time in lieu of a trial. Counsel have the experience and knowledge to guide clients through the decision to negotiate a resolution or proceed with a Final Restraining Order hearing.

Whether you are the victim of domestic violence or you have been accused, retaining an experienced attorney is crucial to safeguard you and your family’s interests.

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Effective September 14, 2015