Dismissing a Final Restraining Order (FRO)
Having a Final Restraining Order (FRO) issued against you can be life-altering. Unlike a protective order in New York, which expires over a set period of time, once a New Jersey Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) becomes final, it is permanent unless the plaintiff voluntarily withdraws it or the Court is convinced that a dismissal of the order is warranted after a Motion to Dissolve is filed. Besides the social stigma that attaches with a Mercer County Superior Court, Family Part judge finding that you committed a predicate act(s) of domestic violence under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a) (e.g. simple assault, terroristic threats, criminal restraint, sexual assault, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, harassment, stalking) and that you pose as an immediate danger to the person who filed the TRO, there are also various legal consequences. These legal consequences can jeopardize your employment or current/future education plans.
Upon the issuance of an FRO, you will be: placed in a central registry as someone who has an active restraining order against them; barred from legally possessing firearms in the State of New Jersey, which in many instances were seized after the issance of the TRO; required, in most cases, to undergo domestic violence counseling, anger management and/or a psychological evaluation with follow-up recommendations; and required to pay a civil penalty of up to $500.00. Furthermore, if the plaintiff alleges that you had any direct or indirect contact with them, you will be arrested and charged with a separate criminal offense for violation of the restraining order, which is called a “ contempt.” In addition to any other penalty that may be imposed, New Jersey law requires that you serve a minimum of 30 days in the Mercer County Correction Center, located in Hopewell, NJ if you are convicted of a second or subsequent contempt. The plaintiff’s ability to allege a contempt continues to exist so long as the restraining order stays active. Therefore, to avoid false allegations of contempt, the FRO must be dismissed.How to Dismiss a Final Restraining Order (FRO)
Dismissing or “dissolving” a Final Restraining Order (FRO) is a complicated process that requires the filing of a formal motion, which needs to be supported by a certification and usually a written legal argument called a “brief.” After the filing of the formal motion and supporting documentation, a date will then be given for the matter to be heard by a judge in the Mercer County Superior Court who will ultimately decide whether the dismissal of the FRO is warranted. Because the overriding goal of New Jersey’s Protection of Domestic Violence Act is to protect victims, judges tend to place a heavy burden on those making the application to dismiss the restraining order. Therefore, it is important to hire an attorney who not only understands the process, but also the law governing these types of applications. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have over 100 years of combined experience and and know what it takes to get an FRO dismissed so it does not continue to have a negative impact on your life and expose you to further serious collateral consequences. If you need to get a restraining order dismissed, call us at our Princeton Office for a free consulation.
In New Jersey, either party may seek a dismissal of a FRO under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. However, it should be noted that until concluding that there is no need for continued protection, a Court will not automatically vacate a FRO even if it is at the victim’s request for reasons such as reconciliation. If you are seeking a dismissal, you must file a motion to dissolve with the Superior Court, Family Part judge who originally entered the FRO. If that judge is no longer available, then you must obtain the transcript of the original FRO proceeding to provide to the judge who will be hearing the formal motion. After obtaining the transcript of the FRO hearing, you must then demonstrate through the filing of a formal motion that there have been a substantial change in circumstances that constitute “good cause,” which, if found, will give you the opportunity to be heard by a judge. In determining whether “good cause” has been shown, the judge looks at 11 factors set forth in Carfagno v. Carfagno, 288 N.J. Super. 424 (Ch. Div. 1995):
- whether the victim consented to lift the restraining order;
- whether the victim’s fear of you is objectively reasonable;
- the nature of the relationship between you and the victim today;
- the number of times that you have been convicted of contempt for violating the order;
- whether you have a continuing involvement with drug or alcohol use;
- whether you have been involved in other violent acts with other persons;
- whether you have engaged in counseling;
- your age and health;
- whether the victim is acting in good faith when opposing the request for a dismissal;
- whether another jurisdiction has entered a restraining order protecting the victim from you; and
- other factors deemed relevant by the Court.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have been successful in applying these factors to people’s current situations to justify the need for a hearing and ultimate dismissal of the FRO, which, in many cases, is the final step in getting closure after a tumultuous relation.