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What to Know if You’re a Stepparent Facing a Restraining Order

Published: January 31, 2024

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New Jersey Attorneys Protecting the Rights of Stepparents Served with Restraining Orders

Restraining Order Impact on Stepparents in New Jersey Domestic violence is a serious matter that can change your life for the unforeseen future. For example, suppose a violent episode erupted between you and your spouse in the presence of your stepchild. Your spouse may file a temporary restraining order (TRO) with the court seeking protection from you, potentially including their child among the people who need protecting. That could be devastating, especially when you are close to your stepchild. Since a stepchild is not your biological relation, your legal rights are limited, and you may not be able to maintain your relationship, heartbreaking as that may be.

At The Tormey Law Firm, our team of restraining order lawyers can assist you in navigating the rules, complexities, and challenges of hearings on domestic violence restraining orders that would disadvantage you if you had to defend yourself without representation. Most importantly, our attorneys can fight for your right to maintain your relationship with your stepchild. Call (908)-336-5008 for assistance with your domestic violence matter in Jersey City, Fort Lee, Paramus, Parsippany, Middletown, Point Pleasant, East Brunswick, elsewhere in New Jersey. We offer free consultations and represent clients in restraining order matters statewide.

Potential Effects of a Restraining Order on Contact with Stepchildren in NJ

Since TROs are typically easy to get, you may find yourself kicked out of your home and prohibited from contacting your stepchild. A TRO forbids contact and communication between the plaintiff (alleged victims) and the defendant (accused). While your restrictions from contacting or communicating in any way with your stepchild are temporary, a final restraining order (FRO) is permanent. Ten days after the TRO, an FRO hearing follows. Should the judge grant a FRO, the order may bar you indefinitely from contacting your family. Although you may have a relationship with children living or visiting your household as a substitute or psychological parent, the odds are against your getting visitation rights. When your stepchild is your adopted child, however, you do have visitation rights if a court finds it is in the best interests of the child to visit with you.

Considerations for Stepchild Visitation and Custody with an FRO in New Jersey

Under any circumstances, a court decides whether a continued relationship with the defendant is in the child’s best interests. When a restraining includes protection of children in the household and the court decides it is not beneficial for a stepchild to see the restrained party, the stepparent-stepchild relationship must end until the restraining order is no longer in effect. In deciding whether to allow contact or visitation with biological or stepchildren, a court considers several factors, such as child abuse, the frequency of domestic violence, the danger the accused presents to a child or parent, criminal or domestic violence history, and input from the police or witnesses.

The court wants assurance the child is safe visiting a parent or stepparent. Once the court agrees child visitation is appropriate, the visitation details must make sense considering the FRO. Supervised visitation or third-party intervenors may be necessary to make it work. When a court rules against visitation, the results may cause hardship for the stepparent and stepchild.

Do Psychological Parents Have Rights in Domestic Violence Cases?

Some stepparents are the equivalent of a substitute or psychological parent, picking up the kids from school, taking them to their sporting events, cheering them on, and supporting them financially and emotionally. However, unless you can prove that you fostered a parent-child relationship, encouraged by the child’s biological parent, and assumed the caretaking and other responsibilities for the child while living with the birth parent and child for a considerable time, an FRO may prevent any contact with them. Proving that you are a psychological parent is challenging, and courts rarely grant visitation on those grounds unless you meet the court’s high standards in regarding you as a “parent.”

How can a Stepparent Challenge a Restraining Order in NJ?

The devastating effects of a restraining order can irreparably disrupt a significant family relationship with a stepchild. You may not be able to see your stepchild again or for the length of time that the restraining order is in force, which can mean a lifetime unless the plaintiff agrees to terminate the order or you can petition the court to successfully vacate the restraining order. Also, you certainly do not want to violate the order, which could land you in jail for contempt. As such, you must avoid a court granting a final protection order at all costs. The best way to do that is to hire a sharp restraining order attorney to represent you at the FRO hearing.

The TRO includes the allegations against you, which our attorneys can use to anticipate their arguments and formulate the best defense for the FRO hearing. Your spouse or partner must prove that you committed domestic violence by detailing the alleged act or acts of abuse and the evidence to prove those acts. They must persuade a judge that you endanger their safety and perhaps, your stepchild’s safety as well. Our attorneys can guide you in presenting the proof necessary to convince a judge that you are not a threat and that they should not grant the final restraining order.

With decades of experience handling restraining order trials, our team can prepare you for the hearing by ensuring that your testimony and those of your witnesses are convincing and clear. You must also prepare to contradict or discredit any witnesses appearing for the plaintiff at the hearing. Typically, domestic violence incidents occur privately, but there may be witnesses that we can cross-examine for their truthfulness and bias. If the plaintiff has ulterior motives in bringing the TRO, our lawyers can often help expose wrong reasons for revenge or winning a child custody battle. In addition, we can impress upon a judge that your relationship with your stepchild is essential and that you did not abuse them or expose them to abuse.

Let our Restraining Order Defense Lawyers Preserve Your Ability to See and Speak with Your Stepchild in New Jersey

If you are a stepparent concerned about your relationship with your stepchild due to a restraining order in New Jersey, it is crucial to hire an experienced defense attorney before your final hearing. In such high stakes situations, you need a legal representative who has experience arguing that an adopted child or, as a psychological parent, a stepchild would suffer by being deprived of their relationship with you as a stepparent. Once you receive notice of a TRO, contact our skilled team of New Jersey domestic violence defense lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm to discuss your case. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start preparing for your hearing and gather the evidence you need for your defense. Call (908)-336-5008 to speak with an attorney on our team in a free confidential consultation.

Filed under: Child Custody, Restraining Order Case Issues

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With offices in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, Middletown, and New Brunswick, our lawyers can represent you anywhere in New Jersey and are available immediately to assist you at (908)-336-5008

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Travis J. Tormey is a distinguished member of the legal community and a respected legal resource on domestic violence. He has been featured in a variety of prominent publications and media outlets, including CBS radio, Aol News, the Asbury Park Press,, and the Daily Record. Mr. Tormey has also been recognized as one of the the top criminal attorneys under 40 years of age by the National Trial Lawyers Association and the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. Whether representing victims or the wrongly accused, Travis remains passionately committed to protecting the rights of the innocent.

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The Tormey Law Firm LLC handles restraining order cases in Bergen County (Hackensack), Morris County (Morristown), Passaic County (Paterson), Union County (Elizabeth), Hudson County (Jersey City), Middlesex County (New Brunswick), Somerset County (Somerville), Sussex County (Newton), Essex County (Newark), Hunterdon County (Flemington), Mercer County (Trenton), Monmouth County (Freehold), Warren County (Belvidere), Ocean County (Toms River), Burlington County (Mount Holly), and throughout NJ.

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