Final Restraining Orders in New Jersey Domestic Violence Cases—Do They Always Last Forever?
Many people do not realize that, although it is difficult, it is not impossible to obtain the dismissal of a Final Restraining Order (FRO) issued by a New Jersey family law court under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
The recent New Jersey Appellate Court decision in the case of A.F.F. v. C.H.G. is the latest evidence of that fact.
Over 20 years ago, in the case of Carfagno v. Carfagno, a preeminent New Jersey family court trial court judge, Thomas H. Dilts, articulated the standards by which such a dismissal motion is still evaluated:
- whether the victim consented to lift the restraining order;
- whether the victim fears the defendant;
- the nature of the relationship between the parties today;
- the number of times that the defendant has been convicted of contempt for violating the order;
- whether the defendant has a continuing involvement with drug or alcohol abuse;
- whether the defendant has been involved in other violent acts with other persons;
- whether the defendant has engaged in counseling;
- the age and health of the defendant;
- whether the victim is acting in good faith when opposing the defendant’s request;
- whether another jurisdiction has entered a restraining order protecting the victim from the defendant; and
- other factors deemed relevant by the court.
Judge Dilts emphasized that it is not enough for the New Jersey family court which decides the motion to simply look at the plaintiff’s “subjective fear” of the defendant. The court must use the “objective fear” standard: “that fear which a reasonable victim similarly situated would have under the circumstances.”
In A.F.F. v. C.H.G., the Appellate Court reversed the decision of a New Jersey family court trial judge to deny the defendant’s dismissal motion, and remanded the case back to that judge to conduct a plenary hearing. The reason for the reversal and remand is that the trial judge had made no findings of fact as to plaintiff’s objective fear of defendant.
There is no question that motions to dismiss FRO’s issued by a New Jersey family law court under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act fail much more than they succeed. Such motions are best made with the assistance of a very experienced New Jersey Domestic Violence attorney who has determined that there is a reasonable chance for success and knows how to best present the evidence on the motion.
Salvaggio Law Group devotes its entire practice to New Jersey Family Law matters, including domestic violence cases. If you want to talk, please call us at (973) 455-1220 or fill out the Contact Form on our firm’s website.