Family Law and COVID-19: What Happens If a Restraining Order Is Issued Against You?
While restraining orders pursuant to the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act exist to protect real victims from abusers, there have been occasions where restraining orders have been obtained with embellished or fabricated allegations. A purported victim may attempt to obtain a restraining order in order to gain an advantage in a custody litigation or to force the alleged abuser from the home. An alleged abuser would then have to defend themselves in court. The initial restraining order is deemed “temporary” and is subject to a subsequent hearing where a judge in the Superior Court of New Jersey will determine if a “final” restraining order should be issued.
It is essential that you have experienced counsel at these final restraining order hearings to set forth your evidence and provide for your defense. In most circumstances, final restraining orders in New Jersey are permanent and often have far reaching consequences beyond simply a restriction on contact between a purported victim and abuser. Final restraining orders show up on background checks, can have employment-related implications, and may play a role in custody disputes.
The outbreak of COVID-19 complicates these issues further because of its effect on the New Jersey judiciary. While the normal delay between the time a victim obtains the temporary restraining order and the hearing is 7 to 10 days, the court closings associated with COVID-19 have delayed scheduling substantially. Until the hearing is eventually scheduled, the temporary restraining order remains in full effect and may preclude the alleged abuser from seeing his or her children, or returning to their home for weeks or months.
While domestic violence restraining order trials are already complex and require careful consideration and preparation, these hearings are likely to become more complex as they are likely to be held virtually through platforms such as Zoom. This will cause challenges in presenting exhibits effectively, and in staying compliant with the Rules of Court and the prevailing law.
Effective and careful advocacy from experienced counsel is more critical in these situations than ever.