For victims of domestic violence and those who suspect violence is occurring, it can be difficult to find the courage to stand up and fight back through the legal system. However, without legal action, the cycle of violence may continue and worsen in severity and frequency of attacks. In addition, the attacker could be harming others, too.
If you know of or have reason to suspect that a domestic violence offense has occurred, Passaic County’s court system offers relief through both civil and criminal means.
What NJ Law Says About Domestic Violence
New Jersey’s “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991” is designed to both protect victims and to punish anyone who commits an act of domestic violence.
Domestic violence in NJ can take many forms. It is often physical abuse, but it can also be psychological, sexual, emotional or financial actions (or threats of actions). Domestic violence does not need to physically wound a victim in order to be actionable. If a victim was frightened, humiliated, intimidated, threatened or manipulated, action under NJ’s domestic violence laws may be appropriate.
While victims of domestic violence are most often women, anyone can be a victim – regardless of gender, sexual orientation or economic status. It is also not necessary for the victim and the aggressor to be married. Passaic County residents may be victims of violent acts committed by a spouse, domestic partner, former spouse or anyone else who is a current or former member of the victim’s household.
Action can also be taken to stop domestic violence if the victim and aggressor have or had a child together, if they anticipate having a child together (if the victim was pregnant when the violence occurred) or if the victim and aggressor are, or were, in a dating relationship.
How to Report a Domestic Violence Offense
If you have been, or suspect that someone you know has been, a victim of a domestic violence offense in Passaic County, here are the steps involved to take action:
1. Get a Temporary Restraining Order
The first step to protecting the victim from further abuse is filing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). A TRO is a legal document that a Passaic County judge signs to temporarily protect a victim or suspected victim. What the TRO includes will depend on the circumstances of the violence suffered. The provisions may include any or all of the following restrictions:
- The abuser cannot return to the scene of the abuse or other specified locations.
- The abuser cannot possess weapons.
- The abuser cannot contact the victim or the victim’s relatives in any way. This may include restrictions on phone, email, letters, text communications, etc.
- The abuser cannot commit future acts of domestic violence.
- The victim may be granted temporary custody of minor children.
- The abuser may be required to pay temporary child support to the victim.
- The abuser may be required to pay for the victim’s medical expenses related to the abusive act(s).
- The victim may be granted exclusive rights to the home.
A TRO can be obtained by contacting the Family Part of the Superior Court in Passaic County Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If a TRO is needed on a weekend or a holiday, it will be necessary to work through the Passaic County Court’s Municipal Division, with help from an attorney or the victim’s local police department.
2. Attend the Scheduled Hearing
Within 10 days from the issuance of the TRO, the court will schedule a hearing. The hearing is the opportunity to present a case to establish that a violent offense (or more than one offense) occurred. The alleged abuser also has the right to appear and testify. Based on all of the information provided at the hearing, the judge will make a determination about issuing a Final Restraining Order.
3. File Criminal Charges
Obtaining restraining orders should help protect a victim from future violent acts. However, victims and those who suspect abuse has occurred should also consider filing criminal charges through the Passaic County Domestic Violence Unit. Criminal action can punish the attacker, thereby helping to keep others safe, too.
A Lawyer Can Help Pursue Justice for Domestic Violence Offenses
A Passaic County Family Law attorney can help with the process of obtaining a restraining order and can protect the victim’s interests and rights at the scheduled hearing.
It can be tough for victims to advocate for themselves, especially when they know they may have to face their abuser in the courtroom. When they have a skilled, compassionate attorney in their corner, it can be easier to pursue justice. An attorney can help victims or others who report suspected violence identify relevant information that can strengthen the legal case, making the decision to proceed that much easier.
If you decide to hire an attorney to help with a suspected domestic violence action, choose a firm with experience handling domestic violence offenses in Passaic County. It’s also important to be comfortable with the attorney and firm you work with. Domestic violence can take an emotional toll, so look for an attorney who is tough and skilled, but also compassionate and personable.
Other resources available to victims of domestic violence offenses:
Passaic County Women’s Center: 973-881-1450
New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-572-SAFE (7233)