To file a restraining order in New Jersey, you must go to your local police department or the Superior Court in the appropriate county. According to Rule 5:7A, the restraining order should be filed in the county in which either party resides, the county in which the alleged domestic violence incident took place, or the county in which the alleged victim is sheltered.
The first thing that must be determined when attempting to file a restraining order in NJ is whether or not you have standing to file as a victim under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. In order to be eligible to file a restraining order, one of the following must be true:
- You and the defendant were in a dating relationship at some point.
- You and the defendant resided together at some point.
- You and the defendant have a child together.
If any of the above applies to your situation, then you are eligible to apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO). If not, you may not be eligible to do so. NOTE: You can’t file a restraining order against your neighbor, for example, unless you and your neighbor had previously been involved in a relationship. You may be able to file criminal charges, but a restraining order is not applicable in that case.
Now, once it is determined that you have standing to apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO), you must go to the court or the police department and file a domestic violence complaint and an application for a TRO. You will either appear before a judge for sworn testimony or you will sign a sworn statement that will be read to a judge telephonically to determine whether or not the temporary restraining order (TRO) will issue.
In the TRO application, you must allege the following:
- A predicate act of domestic violence: There must be at least one predicate act, but you can cite several. Assault, harassment, terroristic threats, and stalking are the most common predicate acts cited in TRO applications.
- A prior history of domestic violence: In most cases, this will be required. However, if the predicate act is extremely violent or egregious, then the judge may not require a showing of prior history.
- The restraining order is necessary to protect your safety/well-being: This means that a reasonable person in your situation would be in fear of the defendant and require protection from the court system.
If the judge grants the TRO, then the defendant is prohibited from having any contact with you. If they violate the TRO, then they will be arrested and charged with contempt. You can also enumerate specific people who they are prohibited from contacting, in addition to specific places that they are prohibited from attending. The prohibited places can include your workplace, school, and home. If there are children in common, then any visitation will also be addressed in the restraining order.
The final hearing will typically be scheduled within 10 days to determine whether a permanent restraining order will issue.