Thomas Carroll Blauvelt

What you need to know if faced with a final restraining order

When someone requests a restraining order against a person whom they’ve accused of domestic violence, the court will typically issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the alleged perpetrator on behalf of the alleged victim. This is often done immediately after an altercation or other incident with a current or former spouse, significant other, roommate or another family member.

If a TRO is issued by the court, both parties will need to return for a hearing within 10 days to determine whether a final restraining order (FRO) should be issued. At that hearing, both the plaintiff (the person who sought the TRO) and the defendant (the person named in the TRO) will testify.

Possible consequences of an FRO

The judge, after hearing the testimony, needs to decide whether the defendant committed an act of domestic violence against the plaintiff and whether to issue an FRO. They’ll set the terms of the order, such as where the defendant is prohibited from going (for example, to the plaintiff’s home, workplace, school and other places they might be) and what kinds of communication are prohibited.

Other consequences can come with a restraining order, such as losing custody or visitation rights to the children, access to their home and to any weapons. These restrictions don’t change any financial obligations the defendant has, such as child support. Note that in New Jersey, FROs have no expiration date.

What to do (and not do) if you disagree with the terms of the FRO

It’s crucial to follow the restrictions of any restraining order. If you breach the protective aspects of it, you could find yourself facing criminal charges in addition to any charges you may already be facing because of the alleged actions that prompted the restraining order. If you believe the FRO should be dismissed or modified, you can make your case in another hearing. 

Note that even if you reconcile with the defendant, they still have to go to court to have the FRO dismissed. That doesn’t dismiss any pending criminal charges.

It’s crucial to take any restraining order – and certainly an FRO – very seriously. It’s best to have experienced legal guidance throughout the process, including at any hearings you need to attend to help you present your case and defend yourself. 

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