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Home Page > Family and Relationships > Domestic Violence

How to File for a Temporary Restraining Order

 

If you experience domestic violence from a spouse, former spouse, or parent of one of your children, you may be eligible for a temporary restraining order (TRO). You may also be eligible if you have experienced domestic violence at the hands of someone with whom you are or were in a dating relationship. If you and the abuser are over 18 and live together or have lived together, you could also be eligible for a TRO. For all TROs, the abuser must be at least 18 years old.

Domestic violence consists of 14 crimes: harassment, assault, terroristic threats, criminal mischief, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, burglary, criminal sexual contact, sexual assault, kidnapping, stalking, lewdness, criminal trespass, and homicide.

What is a TRO?

A TRO is a civil court order that requires the abuser to stay away from you. The abuser cannot go to where you live or work or have any in-person, telephone, or electronic communication with you. This means no phone calls, no text messages, and no e-mail. This order may also give you possession of the residence you share with the abuser, possession of a car, custody of shared children, and emergency support. This order lasts for approximately 10 days before a final hearing will be conducted to determine if the TRO will be dismissed or become final.

If you need to file a TRO between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on a weekday

If able, you can file your TRO at the county courthouse. You may go to the county where you live, where the abuser lives, where the incident occurred, or where you have fled. Once you arrive at the courthouse, you should locate the Family Intake Unit that issues TROs. Once there, you will be asked to fill out paperwork and speak with court staff.

You will have to provide information about yourself, including where you live and where the abuser lives and works. You will need to explain what your relationship is to the abuser and disclose whether or not you share any children. Information needed includes why you are seeking a TRO. What happened between you and the abuser that caused you to seek the protection of a TRO? In addition to the most recent incident you are reporting, you will be questioned about the history of domestic violence between you and the abuser. It is very important that you disclose incidents that have been reported and unreported and include an approximate date for each. Think about any prior incidents for which you may have obtained a TRO, or an incident for which there were witnesses or other evidence, although these things are not required. It is important to remember that pushing, slapping, and name calling can be included in a history of domestic violence. You will only be able to testify about incidents contained in your TRO, so it is important to include everything you can remember.

This is also the time when you will ask for possession of a car, emergency support, custody of shared children, and any other assistance you may need until a final hearing is scheduled. You should also make the staff aware if the abuser possesses a weapon. A search warrant can be issued to remove possession of that weapon from the abuser.

After you provide the information, a TRO will be drafted. It is very important for you to review this document in its entirety for accuracy. If anything is incorrect, you should ask for a correction. When it is correct, you will sign page one of this document.

After the TRO is prepared, you will have to speak to a judge or a domestic violence hearing officer about your domestic violence situation—this will be the information contained in your TRO. The judge may ask you some questions. It is important to answer directly the questions asked and be honest. If the judge determines that you have satisfied a case for domestic violence, he or she will grant you a TRO that day.

If you need to file a TRO before 8:30 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. or on a weekend

If you require protection from an abuser on a weekend or before 8:30 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m., or if you are experiencing an emergency, you may seek a TRO from your local police station. When you visit the police, you will answer questions about your domestic violence situation. It will be necessary for you to provide information about yourself, including where you live. You will need to explain what your relationship is to the abuser and disclose whether or not you share any children. Information needed includes why you are seeking a TRO. What happened between you and the abuser that caused you to seek the protection of a TRO? In addition to the most recent incident you are reporting, you will be questioned about the history of domestic violence between you and the abuser. It is very important that you disclose incidents that have been reported and unreported and include an approximate date for each. Think about any prior incidents for which you may have obtained a TRO, or an incident for which there were witnesses or other evidence, although these things are not required. It is important to remember that pushing, slapping, and name calling can be included in a history of domestic violence. You will only be able to testify about incidents contained in your TRO, so it is important to include everything you can remember.

This is also the time when you will request possession of a car, emergency support, custody of shared children, and any other assistance you may need until a final hearing is scheduled. You should also make the staff aware if the abuser possesses a weapon. A search warrant can be issued to remove possession of that weapon from the abuser.

After you provide the information, a TRO will be drafted. It is very important for you to review this document in its entirety for accuracy. If anything is incorrect, you should ask for a correction. Once correct, you will sign page one of this document.

After the TRO is prepared, you will have to speak to a municipal court judge, most likely over the telephone, about your domestic violence situation—this will be the information contained in your TRO. The judge may ask you some questions. It is important to answer directly the questions asked and be honest. If the judge determines that you have satisfied a case for domestic violence, he or she will grant you a TRO that day.

I have a TRO. Now what?

After you obtain a TRO, the sheriff's department or police are responsible for service of the TRO on the abuser. You should give your local police department a copy of your TRO. This will help them to ensure your safety. Keep a copy of the TRO with you, on your person, at all times. You may give a copy to your employer and/or building superintendent. If minor children are protected on the order, you can also give a copy to their school or daycare.

On page four of your TRO, you will see your court date for the final hearing. The final hearing is a time for you to prove to a Superior Court judge that you are in a relationship with the abuser recognized by the law, that domestic violence was committed against you, and that you are in need of a final restraining order. If you are successful, you will be granted a final restraining order that will provide you protection for the rest of your lifetime. If you obtain the final restraining order, you may be eligible for child support, spousal support, rent, payment of bills, or possession of property. The abuser may also be ordered to obtain a substance abuse evaluation, batterer’s intervention, or parenting classes. If you share children with the abuser, it is presumed that you will be the primary parent, although the abuser may still have parenting time. If you are concerned about the abuser having contact with the children, you should tell the judge about your concerns. The judge should then order a risk assessment.

Once you have a temporary restraining order, it is important that you continue to keep your safety in mind. You may want to consider changing your phone number or locks on your home. This also may be a good time to change the passwords on your e-mail or financial accounts. It is recommended that you change your routine and let someone know where you are. You should also always try to keep your phone fully charged and your car with at least a quarter tank of gas. For more safety planning tips, please reach out to your county domestic violence agency and see our Checklist for Victims of Domestic Violence.

After you obtain the temporary restraining order, if you would like assistance at the final restraining order hearing, you may be eligible for assistance from the Domestic Violence Representation Project (DVRP) at Legal Services of New Jersey. The DVRP provides legal representation, referral, and advice to low-income New Jerseyans who suffer abuse from a spouse or former spouse, present or former household member, or someone with whom they have been in a dating relationship or share a child, and cannot afford to pay for the services of a private lawyer. To find out if you are eligible for help from the DVRP, call LSNJ-LAW™, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529) or 732-572-9100 if you are calling from outside New Jersey. Hotline hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. If you are not eligible for assistance from Legal Services, the hotline will refer you to other possible resources.

Handbook and Self-Help Videos

Legal Services of New Jersey publishes a handbook, Domestic Violence: A Guide to the Legal Rights of Domestic Violence Victims in New Jersey. LSNJ also has a series of self-help videos about restraining orders available on YouTube. You may find them by going to YouTube and searching for New Jersey restraining orders.

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Low-income New Jerseyans can get free legal help by phone: call our toll-free hotline at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Outside of New Jersey, please call 732-572-9100 and ask to be transferred to the hotline.