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Domestic Violence and Final Restraining Orders in New Jersey (1/3)

Once a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) is issued, a Final Restraining Order hearing will be held within a relatively short period, typically in ten (10) days. This hearing is held at the Superior Court in the county in which the restraining order was issued, as Municipal Courts do not issue Final Restraining Orders in New Jersey.

At a hearing, the plaintiff will need to prove that the defendant has committed acts of domestic violence (as defined by the law) against her/him, and convince a judge that her/his safety is at risk.

When considering whether a final restraining order should be issued, the judge will first determine whether or not a predicate act of domestic violence occurred. A predicate act can include any of the following criminal offenses:

- Assault

-Terroristic Threats

- Kidnapping

- False Imprisonment

- Sexual Assault

- Criminal Sexual Contact

- Criminal Restraint

- Criminal Trespass

- Criminal Mischief

- Harassment

- Stalking

- Lewdness

- Burglary

If the judge determines that a predicate act of domestic violence did not occur, then the restraining order will be dismissed. If the judge finds that a predicate act of domestic violence did occur, he or she will also consider other relevant factors including any previous history of domestic violence between the parties (including any prior threats, harassment, and physical violence), whether there is any immediate danger to person or property, the financial circumstances of both parties, and the best interests of the victim and any children.

At the hearing, both parties can be represented by counsel. The alleged victim (plaintiff) can testify about the incident of domestic violence which gave rise to the restraining order. He or she can also call witnesses to bolster the claim. The defense than can cross-examine the alleged victim and any witnesses who take the stand. After the victim puts her/his case on, the defense has an opportunity to call witnesses (including the defendant). Throughout the proceeding, the judge may ask various questions to both parties and witnesses.  After both parties finish, the judge will evaluate the testimony and any offered proofs (evidence) and determine whether or not a final restraining order should be granted.