For those needing legal protection, JBWS provides legal advocates who can assist a victim with obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Final Restraining Order (FRO), as well as Dismissals of Restraining Orders. Advocates educate victims on the dynamics of the abuse, their legal options and "relief's" they may request in the court order. Safety planning with a victim is another crucial service that staff provides. Spanish interpretation and access to pro bono attorney services are available through the program.
Jane Shivas and Regina Braham of JBWS discuss the legal protection and assistance available to victims of domestic violence with Attorney Mark Gruber on "Law Talk Today."
In New Jersey, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act makes domestic violence and abuses a crime. This act also provides for the victim of a domestic violence incident to apply for an order of protection, or a civil restraining order. This application can be made either at the time of the incident with the police or during normal business hours at the county courthouse. The application should be completed specifically detailing the current incident and any prior history of domestic violence.
A restraining order can:
- prohibit the abuser from threatening, striking, or harassing the victim
- prohibit the abuser from having contact with the victim or relatives, in person, by phone, at home, work, etc.
- order the abuser to leave the house or apartment that the victim and/or the victim and the abuser both live in...even if the lease or mortgage is in the abuser's name
- award the victim temporary custody of the children or temporary child support, and/or arrange visitation
- order the abuser to receive counseling services, and more
For more information and assistance with filing for a restraining order, please call the helpline.
Filing criminal charges
A victim may file criminal charges in addition to, or instead of, filing for a civil restraining order. More evidence is needed to press criminal charges since violation of the law must be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt". A victim can file the charges at the police station of the municipality where the incident occurred. The abuser, if found guilty, may receive a criminal record, a jail sentence, a fine, and/or a term of probation.
The legal process can be complicated, frightening, and confusing. JBWS has trained legal advocates to help victims of domestic violence to understand and utilize our complicated legal system. They offer emotional support and accompaniment to court hearings; information on the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and victims' rights; assistance in preparation to appear in court; and referrals to affordable and/or pro bono legal services for representation. To reach a legal advocate, call the helpline.
Access to attorneys
The Battered Women's Legal Advocacy Project (BWLAP) is a partnership project of JBWS and the Morris County Bar Association to provide much needed representation to battered women seeking restraining orders. Within the dynamics of domestic violence, a victim may not have control of or access to family finances. BWLAP services are provided to victims of domestic violence based on eligibility.
BWLAP attorneys can help to guarantee safety by providing the necessary information, court preparation and accompaniment on an emergency basis. The scope of BWLAP is usually limited to representation for the final domestic violence hearing, and does not provide representation for divorce proceedings.