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Monmouth County Domestic Violence Lawyers

File for a Restraining Order

Domestic violence is a serious offense and a tragic time in anyone’s life. Whether you are the victim or someone who has been wrongly accused of this crime, you need help and that includes good legal guidance and protection. A Monmouth County domestic violence attorney can provide you with the support you need to get through this period of your life.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Anyone accused of domestic violence must have a specific relationship to the victim–marriage (current or past), living under the same roof, a child together–and the defendant needs to be 18 years or older. If that relationship exists, there are then 19 crimes that are considered domestic violence, per the state of New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA).

Some of these 19 crimes are obvious–murder, physical assault, and kidnapping. Burglary and sexual assault are crimes in this domestic context as sure as they are in any other.

But other crimes in the list of 19 are less obvious and victims may be deceived into thinking they are not suffering domestic abuse when, in fact, they are. One of those 19 crimes is cyber harassment. Let’s say your ex repeatedly posts derogatory things about you on Facebook. Or takes to Twitter to unleash angry diatribes against you. Or uses their Instagram page to post unflattering photos of you. Or, more ominously, an old partner who wants access to your children posts photos of them leaving school.

Are you or a loved one dealing with domestic violence? Contact us to find out how we can help!

All of these, and similar forms of online behavior, constitute harassment. They vary in degree, just as harassment itself varies in gravity from other crimes in the PDVA. But they still constitute domestic violence and give you a cause of action to bring before Family Court.

Let’s also consider online behavior from the perspective of the defendant. Maybe you post a photo of you, your ex, and kids because you’re simply in a reflective mode. Your ex finds out about it and feels harassed. Now, you might choose to cease posting these pictures in the future, but you are not guilty of cyber harassment. If accused, you need a lawyer who knows New Jersey domestic violence law.

Or maybe you went on social media and posted something to the effect that you’re glad you’re no longer with your ex. Everyone’s emotions can run a little hotter on social platforms. But that, by itself, doesn’t make you guilty of cyber harassment. We might suggest taking the post down. We’d also fight hard to defend you against any attempt to make this post into more than what it was.

New Jersey law defines harassment as “continuing and unwanted communication to another person.” That definition is broad enough to ensure that anyone made to feel unsafe, either through direct crimes or consistent psychological manipulation, has legal recourse. The definition of harassment crimes is also crafted to protect people from unfair charges.

If you are the victim of domestic violence in Monmouth County, your attorney has the task of helping you get a restraining order for your safety.

The Restraining Order Process

A restraining order is a legal decree that the defendant is to no longer have contact with the plaintiff, often specifically defining a radius around the plaintiff, into which the defendant cannot enter. Restraining orders can also prevent an ex from having contact with children.

To use our social media examples from above, a restraining order can contain provisions preventing any references to the plaintiff on social media, no matter how seemingly benign. Here in New Jersey, there was a case in 2014 (State of NJ v. H.L.M) where a mother was barred from posting anything about her ex-husband and children.

The process of getting a restraining order starts with filing a domestic violence complaint. If you are the victim, you can expect to be asked about both this triggering incident that brought you in, along with anything from the past. When you have a domestic violence lawyer present, they can help your memory in this regard. Incidents—even terrible ones—can be easily forgotten under stress.

Your attorney, with the experience of many other domestic abuse cases, can ask the kinds of question that will help you remember. This can be critically important Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior as much as it is a single incident. Your ability to get a restraining order may hinge on accurately presenting that pattern to the court, and your attorney is there to help.

You can then be granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). These are issued without input from the defendant. But there will be a day in court when both sides will be heard. The defendant then must be served with a notice to appear at the hearing. Delivering this notice is the responsibility of law enforcement, although if the person you are seeking protection from is hard to track down, your input as to their whereabouts can be extremely helpful.

If the defendant is served and does not show up for the hearing, the judge can still proceed. If the defendant is not served, the process may drag out longer. So, it is in your best interest to share any information you might have if finding the defendant becomes a problem.

The hearing will then determine if the TRO will turn into an FRO–a Final Restraining Order. It is difficult to overstate how important having legal counsel present at this hearing will be. As noted, these orders can often hinge on patterns of behavior, either establishing or disputing them. Most people need help in jarring loose painful memories and then conveying them in a manner that will be compelling under New Jersey domestic abuse law.

The judge will determine whether an FRO will be issued and what its scope will be. If the FRO is issued, the defendant will–at minimum–face a fine of anywhere from $50 to $500. The final order will be automatically issued to local law enforcement. If children are involved, it’s highly recommended that the plaintiff make copies of the order available to any schools, childcare centers, extracurricular activity leaders or anywhere else the defendant may show up.

Are you or a loved one dealing with domestic violence? Contact us to find out how we can help!

What Happens After a Restraining Order Is Issued?

A restraining order comes under civil law. It does not, by itself, constitute a criminal offense on the record of the defendant. But violating a restraining order does come under the criminal code. A second violation of a restraining order means an automatic 30 days in jail.

Furthermore, the issuance of the restraining order does not preclude a plaintiff from bringing criminal charges. A spouse who has been physically assaulted might first choose to secure their safety with the restraining order and then ask that charges be filed.

There are also cases where the plaintiff and defendant may want to reconcile at some point in the future. Officially, an FRO lasts forever. But it can be changed at the request of the plaintiff. Keep in mind that this takes more than a phone call. Modifying or abandoning a restraining order is a legal process unto itself. In fact, if the parties want to attend counseling together, they must seek at least a modification of the order. Counseling is not exempt from the constraints of the restraining order.

Get Legal Help

Those who are victimized by domestic violence, and those who may be wrongly accused of this awful crime, must seek help. A domestic violence conviction in the state of New Jersey can result in prison time anywhere from 18 months to 20 years. It’s not something to take lightly if you are handed a TRO and a court summons. For victims, getting the help you need to present your case might be the difference between feeling secure or living in fear.

At Stolfe Zeigler New Jersey Family Law Group, we can help you. Our firm is devoted exclusively to issues of family law. We know what your rights are, and we fight to protect them. Contact us today, either here online or by phone at (732) 585-1651

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