Under the current laws, restraining orders can only be issued upon a predicate act of domestic violence. Legislation on the issue of non-domestic violence restraining orders was introduced several years ago, but there's been no progress since then. But it does beg the question of why domestic violence is the only grounds for a restraining order. First, many parties who are not current or former intimate partners end up in volatile situations, with one party justifiably being in fear of the other. Second, even current or former intimate partners have non violence-based reasons for needing to stay away from each other.
Unfortunately, there's no way to keep a spouse out of the marital home without a restraining order predicate upon an act of domestic violence. There is a second option known as a civil order, which can prohibit all types of contact and communication between the parties, similar to a restraining order. However, a civil order does not offer nearly the same level of protection as a restraining order. For example, a restraining order allows a victim to call the police if they are contacted or approached by the attacker. Violation of a restraining order carries stiff penalties, including possible jail time even for a first offense, along with a criminal record for a fourth degree offense. On the other hand, civil order violations are only enforceable after a hearing to determine the nature and level of the violation. These are not emergent hearings, by the way, so you won't be getting before a judge anytime soon.
Another valid argument has to do with the consequences of domestic violence restraining orders on a party who is dependent on the other party for financial support. Because of the serious nature of domestic violence, employers have been known to outright fire employees who have restraining orders against them. This can be devastating for all the involved parties, but then again, a civil order may not be enough protection for the victim. Hence, there has continually been an outcry for the issuance of non-domestic violence restraining orders, but it's been a tough sell. Even the legislation that was proposed in 2014 has fallen by the wayside for reasons we're not quite sure of. One possible issue is that the law still requires a predicate act for the issuance of a restraining order. It just so happens that pretty much all the predicate acts that one can think of fall under NJ”s Prevention of Domestic Violence guidelines.
This is understandably a frustrating situation for many victims who have to choose between the serious nature of a restraining order, and the lax guidelines of a civil order. It can also be frustrating to decide which of these options is in everybody's best interest. In many cases, it's best to consult an experienced attorney who can advise you on your rights and legal options. For more information on restraining orders and civil orders, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.