There’s a chance you’re already breathing a sigh of relief. No doubt you figured there’s no way to reverse a restraining order. After all, the court marked the document as final. And, you’re more than aware of the consequences associated with protection orders against you.
First, consider this brief explanation. The courts and law enforcement agencies take domestic violence quite seriously. As you may know, it’s remarkably easier to obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO). In off-hours, a local judge executes the TRO until it’s time to go before the family court. During the regular business day, you’ll need to go down to the county courthouse to begin the process.
If you’re worried about a TRO in place against you, you’ll have your day in court when it comes to the final restraining order (FRO). The courts don’t arbitrarily issue FROs. Instead, the victim needs to go through some hurdles as far as proofs and the demand for protection.
A final restraining order entered against you suggests every reason for concern. For starters, it shows up at the most inopportune times. It impacts your livelihood and even your living situation. If you have weapons, you could be ordered to surrender them.
Meanwhile, the appeals process within the court system represents an opportunity for defendants to revisit the situation. All things considered, you may have a legitimate cause for concern.
A recent New Jersey Appellate Court’s unpublished opinion reversed entry of a final restraining order. You may be interested in what led to the higher court’s decision.
Why Did the Appellate Division Reverse a Restraining Order?
Just last week, the New Jersey Appellate Division decided to reverse a restraining order executed pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA).
Nothing in the court history indicates that the parties were ever married to one another. Instead, it seems the couple engaged in a sexual relationship that started in 2016. The male plaintiff provided the court with information regarding his long-term relationship with another woman. He referred to this individual as his wife.
Meanwhile, the plaintiff’s husband lived in another country. The parties agreed to keep their relationship secret and met in hotels to culminate their sexual encounters.
In August of 2017, the plaintiff used his phone to record an intimate video of the two. He claimed he did so with permission of the defendant. The plaintiff said he agreed to keep it for himself and never shared it.
As their relationship continued, things got testy. In November 2017, the male partner lost his job. He attributed this incident to an altercation with the defendant at his place of employment. Nonetheless, they got together for sex a month later.
During the December encounter, the plaintiff claims his lover took the phone and sent the sex video to her husband. When the husband called his wife, she passed the phone to the plaintiff.
According to the testimony, the male partner decided to tell the husband what was going on. In response, the wife commandeered the phone and destroyed it.
Despite this event, the couple continued to meet until their relationship ended on May 20, 2018. The plaintiff had already confessed the liaison to the woman he called his wife. In fact, that woman attended to communicate with the defendant. That said, the defendant ignored attempts by the plaintiff’s “wife” to speak with her in person. (They did have a phone conversation.)
When the defendant learned her lover broke the promise to keep their relationship secret, she was outraged. She claimed she and her husband would destroy the life of the defendant’s nine-year-old child.
Plaintiff worried about his child and applied for a TRO alleging harassment four days later. He subsequently amended the TRO with further complaints of harassment on June 13, 2018.
Less than a month later, the parties appeared in court. They began to fight verbally and the defendant was arrested for violating the TRO. Afterward, the defendant filed an application of her own seeking a TRO. She said the plaintiff threatened her and attacked her.
In the meantime, the plaintiff’s “wife” claimed that the defendant continued to contact her. She even told the woman to “watch her children.”
Notably, during the court proceeding, defendant shared an audio recording claiming the plaintiff promised to kill her. She also said that she needed to change her phone number at work because her previous lover insisted on harassing her on the job.
The parties returned to court on September 13, 2018. The plaintiff admitted she never told the police about the alleged death threats. She avoided seeking a TRO initially because he never “wanted to be going through this situation.”
Restraining Order Hearings
During the September hearing date, the court heard another tape of a phone call. The caller only said they were calling on behalf of the defendant. Nonetheless, the defendant denied knowledge of who made the call, She also claimed she didn’t ask anyone to call for her.
According to the female defendant, many people have the same name as her and her former lover. Again, she had no idea who made this call.
The court heard testimony from the defendant’s supervisor. She claimed that during the July hearing, she witnessed the plaintiff threaten to kill the employee. The supervisor also provided the court with information regarding the repeated phone calls from the defendant.
When the court came to its conclusion, it found that the testifying witnesses were not compelling. The judge also ruled as far as the allegations asserting that the defendant violated the TRO.
Ultimately, the court ruled that plaintiff’s testimony did not suggest that the defendant needed a final restraining order. However, the ruling called for the defendant to cease contact.
The initial hearing took place in July, When the matter continued in September, the court entered the restraining order against the defendant.
However, the Appellate Division disagreed. Citing the precedential case law, the trial court did not consider the factors involved in executing an FRO. These are found in NJSA 2C:25-29 (a).
Since safety seemed to be of little concern as far as the plaintiff or his son, the Appellate Division decided this as a major factor for reversing the FRO. In short, “the evidence failed to show that plaintiff was in immediate danger of any physical harm or further communications by defendant.”
Concerned about a restraining order executed against you? Does the other party want a restraining order reversed? Both are situations that call for the experience of the Law Offices of Sam Stoia. Call us to schedule an appointment.