Am I Allowed to Contact the Person I Have a Protection Order Against in New Jersey?
Restraining orders protect victims of sexual or domestic violence. They prohibit the defendant named in the order, such as the spouse, dating partner, or significant other of the victim, from contacting the victim named in the order. That typically means the defendant cannot call, text, email, or meet the protected party or plaintiff at home or work. Sometimes the restraining order extends to others, such as housemates or children. However, when a plaintiff contacts the defendant, the outcome of violating their own restraining order depends on many factors.
Is it Possible to Violate Your Own Restraining Order in NJ?
A temporary restraining order, final restraining order, or sex crime protective order names one party, the respondent or defendant, and restricts them from doing certain things like contacting the petitioner or plaintiff. It can also order the defendant to take specific actions, including surrendering their firearms, paying child support, paying the plaintiff’s medical bills, etc. A family judge may tailor an order to fit each situation, so when the parties have children together, a judge may order supervised visitation or prohibit the restrained party from contacting their children. Even if the parties already have a visitation and custody order, the restraining order judge makes the final order. Alternatively, a judge may craft a visitation schedule including means of exchanging the children without violating the restraining order.
Ultimately, a restraining order notifies defendants of what they can and cannot do. And when a defendant violates the order, they can face police arrest and contempt charges. It is a fourth degree crime to violate a restraining order, which means a defendant could be jailed for 18 months and pay a $10,000.00 fine, or a disorderly persons offense, meaning a defendant could be sentenced to 6 months in jail and forced to pay a $1,000 fine. The conduct determines the crime degree. For instance, if the defendant calls the plaintiff, that is a disorderly persons offense. On the other hand, if the defendant threatens or assaults the plaintiff, they may be charged with a fourth degree crime.
Importantly, since the order targets a specific defendant, the plaintiff is not legally required to obey the order. In other words, the protective order does not go both ways. When the protected party texts the defendant, it is not the plaintiff, but the defendant, who violates the order by responding. That is to say, the person who may face criminal penalties for violating the restraining order is the defendant who texts the plaintiff back, not the defendant, even if they started the conversation.
By responding to the plaintiff’s text, the defendant may face arrest and contempt charges. Assuming the plaintiff calls the police and shows them the text, technically, the police can arrest the defendant for violating the restraining order’s terms. Practically speaking, however, an officer who learns that the supposed victim started the text conversation may not make the arrest. Of course, there are always exceptions to the general rule. A judge may also decline to place the defendant in contempt with evidence that the plaintiff initiated the contact.
Can You Get in Trouble for Being Around Someone You Filed a Restraining Order Against in NJ?
In this scenario, the accused may seek a restraining order for their protection. In other words, both people file restraining orders and have them in place against the other person. With mutual restraining orders, neither party may contact the other. More often, however, when the parties wish to get back together, the plaintiff may initiate contact with the defendant. And if they do reconcile, neither needs a restraining order. This does not mean that the restraining order magically disappears. Without removing the restraining order, if the reconciliation fails, the victim again suffers abuse, or the police become aware of the contact between the parties, then the party named in the restraining order faces arrest and charges for violation of a restraining order.
If You Want to Reconcile with the Person on Your Restraining Order in NJ, What Should You Do?
The safest route for a restrained party wishing to reconcile with their spouse or significant other is to terminate the restraining order by going to court. Since a restraining order is typically temporary at first, the person who filed the TRO can go to court and request that it be dismissed at the final restraining order hearing that follows ten days after a temporary order. Restraining orders often are matters of emergency, with a victim needing the court to protect their endangered life. The later evidentiary hearing is for the judge to decide whether the temporary order is necessarily made permanent. When the victim requests a dismissal at the final restraining order hearing, meeting with a domestic violence counselor and putting their request on the record (as long as they are not being coerced into doing so), the court typically drops the matter, and the interim order is then no longer in effect.
To terminate a final restraining order, the plaintiff can also ask the court to drop the order. Since the protected party is asking to end the order, a judge is likely to order it, especially if they speak to the plaintiff to ensure they are asking to terminate the order of their own free will and not under duress. A judge also wants to ensure the victim is no longer at risk for domestic violence or sexual abuse.
The defendant’s request for a restraining order modification or termination is more challenging. Without the plaintiff’s agreement, the defendant may not persuade a judge that the order is no longer necessary or that even parts need modification, especially if they don’t have a knowledgeable and skilled restraining order attorney representing their case. In cases involving reconciliation, evidence that the parties wish to reconcile and no longer want the final restraining order may persuade the judge, especially when both parties petition and appear at the hearing to testify to the judge about their intentions to get back together. A restraining order lawyer representing one of the parties is still very important in these cases, as the complexities and requirements of the process are by no means simple.
Concerned about a Restraining Order Being Violated if You’ve Reconciled in NJ?
When your current or former intimate partner or spouse seeks a restraining order against you, your wisest move is to contact an attorney at our New Jersey law firm as soon as possible. With decades of experience handling restraining order cases and trials on both sides of these matters, our lawyers can represent you at a final restraining order hearing and assist with securing your desired outcome in the case. If you need to oppose the plaintiff’s request for a permanent protection order, we can help you present your evidence countering allegations of abuse, harassment, assault, threats, or violence. Alternatively, you can ask us to assist you in avoiding a restraining order violation if the restraining order is already in place and the plaintiff reaches out to you.
No matter what the situation may be, our seasoned lawyers can advise you on how to proceed carefully, help you seek a protective order, help you drop an order that you requested, defend you against false allegations, or prepare a motion to terminate the order in your case. We assist clients who want to reconcile with the other person involved in their restraining order case and our legal team is prepared to protect your rights and best interests in these situations, which require careful handling. Be sure to contact us at (908)-336-5008 to speak to an attorney in a free consultation about your restraining order matter.