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Orders of Protection and Divorce in New Jersey


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It is not uncommon for divorces to become contentious. In some cases, this can escalate such that one spouse may feel physically threatened by the other. The spouse feeling threatened may decide to file for an order of protection

An, otherwise known as a “restraining order” is a court order that prohibits one person from contacting another. The spouse filing for the order of protection is known as the plaintiff, while the other spouse is referred to as the defendant. 

Note that an order of protection prohibits the spouses from communicating with each other, which can make divorce mediation and litigation more difficult. However, an experienced family law attorney can help by representing each spouse during official proceedings. 

This article explains more about what orders of protection are, how they affect divorce cases, and why you should get an attorney if you need an order of protection (or you were served with one) during your divorce.

Understanding Orders of Protection in New Jersey

Courts in New Jersey can issue two types of restraining orders: 

  • Temporary restraining order (TRO): When first filing for an order of protection, the plaintiff can request a TRO, which will be issued immediately if the judge believes it is necessary to protect the plaintiff’s life, health, or well-being. The TRO lasts until the hearing for a final restraining order, which is usually scheduled within 10 days.
  • Final restraining order (FRO): Following the hearing, if the judge deems it necessary, they will issue a final restraining order. A FRO has no end date and can stay in place indefinitely. However, one of the parties can file a motion asking the court to end or modify it.

There may be legal grounds for an order of protection if any of these acts have been committed against one party by another:

The following are the steps required for a spouse to obtain an order of protection in New Jersey:

  1. Go to the courthouse or police station and fill out the necessary paperwork.
  2. Speak to a hearing officer or judge, who will decide if TRO will be issued.
  3. If TRO is granted, the FRO hearing will be scheduled within 10 days.
  4. Attend FRO hearing where both parties will be able to present their cases.

The Intersection of Orders of Protection and Divorce Cases

There are several ways that an order of protection can affect divorce proceedings.

Negotiation

An order of protection can affect the ability of the parties to mutually resolve divorce issues through mediation, given that they are prohibited from contacting each other for any reason. This means resolving issues of property division, spousal support, child custody, child support, etc., is more challenging. The parties can work around this by having attorneys represent them during mediation.

Child Custody, Child Support, and Visitation Rights

A restraining order can also affect child custody, child support, and visitation rights. The order can include terms covering child custody and child support, which would ensure the child’s best interests are taken care of until a permanent child custody and child support arrangement is finalized in the divorce settlement. 

An existing order of protection can hinder visitation rights, since one spouse may be prohibited from physically being at the residence of the custodial spouse.

Getting an Order of Protection Lifted

Naturally, one would never recommend avoiding an order of protection if it’s necessary for physical safety. However, there are times that the parties reconcile and they mutually decide that they want the order to be lifted. In addition, being subject to an order of protection can be inhibiting (for example it may limit you from crossing the border into Canada). Lifting an order of protection can be a complicated process and is best accomplished by hiring an attorney.

Special Considerations in NJ Divorce Cases Involving Orders of Protection

There are some special considerations to be aware of when dealing with a restraining order in New Jersey. 

First, the burden of proof is on the spouse requesting the order. The civil standard for proof applies, such that the filing party must show that it is more likely than not that their allegations are accurate.

If the request for an order of protection contains domestic violence allegations, these are considered a civil matter for purposes of the restraining order. However, they can lead to criminal charges if the allegations are serious enough. 

This is something the plaintiff may want to consider before filing for the order. The defendant should be aware of potential criminal charges they could face and should prepare a legal strategy for dealing with that situation if it does arise. 

Finally, if a judge finds the allegations in a restraining order request to be credible, he or she will consider these when deciding various issues in the divorce. These could include, for example, alimony and child custody.

Preparing for Your Divorce Case with an Order of Protection in Place

Once a restraining order is in place, the divorce process becomes significantly more complicated; both spouses will need to deal with additional legal proceedings specifically related to the order of protection on top of the divorce litigation. This means additional documentation and evidence will need to be collected and presented in court related to the restraining order. 

Hiring an attorney to deal with the legal proceedings for a divorce with a restraining order in place can help a spouse through a challenging time. This will at least take the burden of much of the work off the shoulders of the spouse. Also, an attorney can help with formulating the best legal strategy to proceed with. 

Why Legal Representation is Crucial

Consulting an attorney is always a good idea during a divorce, but when one party is seeking an order of protection or there is one already in place, it is even more important to have experienced legal representation. 

First and foremost, an attorney can protect their client’s rights. They can also communicate on their behalf, which is essential if a restraining order prohibits the spouses from contacting each other. This will improve chances of resolving issues through mediation. An attorney knowledgeable about divorce law also can help develop the most effective legal strategy and navigate the litigation process to ensure a favorable outcome.

Schedule Your Free Attorney Consultation

If you are going through a divorce in New Jersey, it can be quite stressful, especially if you are also seeking an order of protection or have been served with one. Let us take some of the stress away during this emotionally trying time. 

At Rosenblum Law, our attorneys have decades of experience handling divorces and orders of protection. Contact us now and receive a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys. Do not hesitate to take the first step in securing your future and protecting your rights. 

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