UPDATED DEC 1. 2018
As New Jersey criminal and family lawyers, clients come to us after having received a temporary restraining order (TRO). Naturally, they want to know what will happen after they are served with TRO. It is a serious situation in New Jersey, but the process itself is usually fairly straightforward.
The first thing that anyone should do after they receive a temporary restraining order is to read it. The restraining order will state a list of things that the defendant is not allowed to do. For example, it may prohibit the person from contacting the plaintiff, prohibit them from seeing certain family members, may prohibit them from going certain places, etc. The defendant can get into serious trouble if he/she violates the restraining order, so it is important to read it carefully and make sure to follow directions. It is highly recomended that anyone served with a restraining order should contact an attorney immediately and go over the paperwork with the attorney.
The restraining order will restrain the defendant from doing the specific things stated in the order until the court says otherwise. But a TRO is only temporary – the order will state the date of a hearing and the judge at the hearing will determine what will happen next. It is extremely important not to miss the hearing date. If you do, then the judge will almost certainly make the TRO into a permanent, final restraining order (FRO). It will be on your record forever and you will never be able to do the things stated in the order until the court orders otherwise.
By law, the FRO hearing in New Jersey will be scheduled to occur within 10 days from the date that the TRO is issued. However, this hearing is often adjourned for short periods of time. Frequently, parties show up for a FRO hearing and they may not be ready to proceed with the hearing – a witness is not available, paperwork is still being gathered, etc. For good cause, the judge will allow a reasonable adjournment of the FRO hearing.
The FRO hearing is essentially a trial. In New Jersey, the plaintiff must prove her case by a preponderance of the evidence at the FRO hearing. This means that the plaintiff must prove that her claims are more likely true than not true (i.e. more than 50%). The plaintiff at a FRO hearing must show that the defendant committed one of the criminal offenses listed in the statute and that she is reasonably in fear that the defendant may commit one of these offenses in the future. Very often, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant committed either harassment, stalking, threats, or an assault. An attorney representing the defendant may argue that the defendant did not do one of these offenses, or that there is no realistic chance that it will occur in the future.
If the judge is satisfied that the plaintiff has proven that the defendant committed one of these offenses and that the plaintiff is justifiably in fear that he will do it again in the future, then the judge will convert the temporary restraining order into a final restraining order. The defendant’s attorney may also argue that the FRO should be less restrictive than the TRO (for example, they may have a child together and there needs to be communication between the parents about visitation).
Remember, it is a very serious situation if a person is served with a temporary restraining order and if the judge orders a final restraining order then the defendant will be affected for many years into the future. If you have any question or you or a loved one were served with a restraining order, please do not hesitate to contact us for a 100% free consultation.
Raff & Raff, LLP
Attorneys at Law
30 Church Street
Paterson, NJ 07505
Tel: (973) 742-1917
Fax: (973) 742-2454