Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Violence

    • Q. What is Domestic Violence?

      What crimes are covered by the 1991 Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA)?

      Domestic violence occurs when one of the crimes listed below is committed against a person protected under the 1991 Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA). The crimes are listed below.

      • Homicide
      • Assault
      • Terroristic Threats
      • Kidnapping
      • Criminal restraint
      • False imprisonment
      • Sexual assault
      • Criminal sexual contact
      • Lewdness
      • Criminal mischief
      • Burglary
      • Criminal trespass
      • Harassment
      • Stalking
      • Criminal Coercion
      • Robbery
      • Contempt of a Domestic Violence Order
      • Crimes involving risk of death or serious bodily injury
      • Cyber-harassment
    • Q. What relationships are covered by the PDVA?

      The parties must have had a specific relationship at present or in the past. The gender of the parties is not a factor. The relationships are listed below.

      • Marriage
      • Separation
      • Divorce
      • Living together in the same household now or in the past
      • Dating or dated in the past
      • Having a child in common
    • Q. Who is a Defendant under the PDVA?

      Under the PDVA, the defendant must be 18 years old OR the defendant is a minor who is considered emancipated for one of the reasons listed below.

      • Military service
      • Being pregnant or having a child
      • Emancipation by a court or an administrative agency.
    • Q. What is a Restraining Order?

      A restraining order is an order issued by the court that is intended to protect a victim of domestic violence from a defendant with whom the victim has or had a relationship.

    • Q. Who can qualify for a Restraining Order?

      A victim of domestic violence is a person who is 18 years of age or older, or who is an emancipated minor. The victim has suffered domestic violence by one of the persons listed below.

      • A spouse or former spouse
      • A present or past household member
      • Someone with whom the victim has had a child or is expecting a child
      • Someone whom the victim is dating or has dated
    • Q. How do I apply for a Restraining Order?

      A person can file in the county

      • where the defendant lives,
      • where the plaintiff lives, or
      • where the plaintiff is sheltered or staying temporarily.

      Go to the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court Family Division at the county courthouse. Offices are open every weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

      Weekend, evenings, and holidays, go to your local police department to file a complaint.

    • Q. Will criminal charged be filed in Domestic Violence cases?

      The victim can choose to file a criminal complaint with the police.

      If the victim chooses not to file a complaint, the police are required to file a criminal complaint if there are visible signs of injury.

    • Q. What happens when the restraining order is requested at the courthouse?

      • A domestic violence staff member will interview the plaintiff and ask questions about the event that brought them to the courthouse. They also will ask about past incidents of domestic violence.
      • After the interview, there will be a hearing with a domestic violence hearing officer or judge. The defendant does not need to be present.
      • The plaintiff will be issued a temporary restraining order TRO if the hearing officer agrees that one is needed. If the case is heard by a hearing officer who does not recommend a TRO, the plaintiff can ask to have a judge hear the case.
      • If the judge or a hearing officer issues a TRO, the plaintiff will be given a date to return for a final restraining order (FRO) hearing within 10 days.
      • Copies of the TRO will be sent to law enforcement for personal service on the defendant. The plaintiff and defendant need to appear on the scheduled day of the final hearing.
    • Q. What happens at the Final Restraining Order hearing?

      • The judge will hear testimony from both parties.
      • The judge will decide whether an act of domestic violence occurred, whether a final restraining order (FRO) should be issued and if so, what types of relief will be granted.

      Relief could include the following prohibitions:

      • The defendant might be barred from future acts of domestic violence.
      • The defendant might be barred from the plaintiff’s residence, place of employment or other places.
      • The defendant might be prohibited from having any oral, written, personal, or electronic contact with the plaintiff or others.
      • The defendant might be prohibited from making or causing anyone else to harass the plaintiff or others.
      • The defendant might be prohibited from stalking, following, threatening to harm, stalk, or follow the plaintiff or others.
      • The defendant might be ordered to pay child support or emergency funds.
      • The defendant might be ordered to attend substance abuse counseling or other evaluations.
      • The defendant will be prohibited from possession of weapons.
      • The plaintiff might be issued exclusive possession of the residence, temporary custody of children, support, medical coverage, damages, and other items.
      • If the FRO is issued, the defendant will be photographed and fingerprinted and will be ordered to pay a penalty of $50 to $500, payable through the court’s finance department.
      • A copy of the FRO will be given to both parties. It is important to review the order before leaving the building to ensure accuracy.
      • The Family Division will forward a copy of the order to the police department in the municipality where the plaintiff lives.
      • The plaintiff also should provide copies to work, daycare centers, schools, and any other places of significance.
      • The plaintiff should keep the FRO in his or her possession at all times. If lost, additional copies can be requested at the domestic violence unit where the order was entered.
    • Q. Should the parties bring anything to the Final Restraining Order hearing?

      You might choose to hire an attorney, but an attorney is not required for either party.

      Bring anything you want the court to consider. This could include the following:

      • Witnesses. The court cannot accept written testimony.
      • Photos of injuries and property damage.
      • Medical documents.
      • Receipts related to property damage.
      • Financial information if you want the defendant to pay housing expenses, spousal support, or child support.
    • Q. What if the plaintiff appears for court and the defendant fails to appear in a domestic violence case?

      The judge could issue an FRO against the defendant, if there is proof of service or testimony that the defendant was aware of the hearing date.

      If there is no proof that the defendant has been served, a new date might be scheduled, and the TRO will remain in effect. A law enforcement officer will serve the defendant with a copy of the final order.

    • Q. What if the Defendant is not abiding by the Restraining Order?

      The restraining order is divided into two parts:

      Part 1 contains restraints against contact. If the defendant does not comply with Part 1 of the order, the plaintiff can go to the police station and sign criminal charges.

      Part 2 deals with financial and parenting issues. If the defendant is not complying with Part 2 of the order, it must be enforced through family court.

      Domestic violence matters are serious. If you are unsure about any aspect of a restraining order, you should call the police or contact the family court.

    • Q. What happens if the plaintiff wants to dismiss or modify an existing Restraining Order?

      Any request to dismiss or make changes to an existing order must be done in person and heard before a judge. Restraining orders cannot be dropped or modified by telephone.

      If the plaintiff reconciles with the defendant, it does not mean an automatic dismissal of an order. If the plaintiff wishes to reconcile with the defendant, the plaintiff must appear before a judge in the Family Division of Superior Court to request a dismissal.

      Contact between the plaintiff and defendant in advance of a court order subjects the defendant to criminal prosecution. If the restraining order is dismissed, there still might be pending criminal charges that need to be addressed separately in the appropriate municipal or criminal court.

    • Q. What happens to child support if the plaintiff asks for the Final Restraining Order to be dismissed?

      If the FRO is dismissed, the plaintiff can request a new order to continue the child support.

    • Q. What if the parties want to attend counseling in a Domestic Volence case?

      The parties may not attend counseling together if there is an order in effect. There is no mediation of any kind if there is a restraining order in effect or a history of domestic violence.

    • Q. Does the Final Restraining Order expire?

      FROs do not expire in New Jersey. Additionally, the Full Faith and Credit provisions of the Federal Violence Against Women Act requires all states, US territories and commonwealths to enforce restraining orders. This means if you leave New Jersey, your order is enforceable in every state, US territory, and commonwealth. Keep the order with you at all times.