The Serious Implications of a Temporary Restraining Order, and the Steps to Take to Prevent a Final Restraining Order
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
APPELLATE DIVISION DOCKET
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
On November 19,2019, plaintiff obtained a temporary restraining order against the defendant.
On December 12,2019, the hearing for the final restraining order took place. Prior to the FRO hearing, the judge provided the parties with thorough comprehensive preliminary instructions informing both parties their right to obtain an attorney and gave each the opportunity to consult with an attorney, if they chose. The plaintiff requested an adjournment so she could retain an attorney and prepare for the hearing. The defendant did nothing. When the parties returned to court December 23, 2019, the court repeated the same instructions which were provided December 12, 2019. Both parties indicated they were ready for continuing with the hearing and the defendant was proceeding without being represented.
The underlying facts surrounding the TRO stems from altercations that occurred after the end of the relationship between plaintiff and defendant in September 2019. Thereafter, for the next several months defendant engaged in harassing behavior to plaintiff by calling and attempting to contact plaintiff many times even after she told him to stop. Specifically, Defendant called plaintiff ninety-eight times on November 2 and 3, 2019 alone; he followed her to and from work on November 19, 2019; creating two fake social media accounts to try to contact her on November 19, 2019; and threatened to kill himself if she did not communicate with him. During the final restraining order hearing the defendant admitted his behavior constituted harassment and apologized for his actions. The judge looked at the totality of the circumstances and events which had happened and found a final restraining order was necessary to protect the plaintiff.
On appeal, the defendant claimed his waiver of rights to be represented by counsel at the final restraining order hearing “was not clear and knowing and a violation of his due process.” Defendant argued the judge “neglected to adequately question him of his rights to counsel” and he “was not given the opportunity to make an informed decision when he decided to proceed and represent himself.” Additionally, he asserts “there was no voir dire” to ascertain “whether he understood the potential consequences and how they could negatively affect his rights should the court find an act of domestic violence was committed.” The Appellate Court acknowledged there were two separate calendar calls which the trial court explained in great detail his right to retain counsel and the consequences of the entry of a FRO. Both parties were informed an adjournment would take place if either party wanted to be assigned or look for counsel. Plaintiff, after hearing these instructions, went to get counsel and defendant chose not to. Finally, when being questioned by the trial judge, defendant confirmed he was prepared without representation. The Appellate Court found the trial court made no error and clearly informed both parties of their rights and consequences of a final restraining order. The defendant voluntarily waived his rights for counsel and the decision is affirmed.
Here at Hark&Hark we understand how serious it is to have a final restraining order against you. If you have been issued a temporary restraining order, be sure to contact us at 856-354-0050. We will make sure to do everything in our power to prove that a final restraining order is not necessary.