Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

What To Do If You Are A Victim Of Domestic Violence Over the Holidays

Stress levels during the holidays can skyrocket. Spending money, pressure on traditions, cooking, visiting relatives, and everyone on top of each other for days on end can, even in the best of situations, lead to tension. If one (or even many) of your relationships are already strained the holiday pressure cooker can be overwhelming.

Alcohol can also be an enormous problem for both the habitual and occasional drinker, and it flows freely during the holidays. Even consuming just a few drinks can increase a person’s rage, their sense of power and domination over others, wanting to control. Or even worse, cause them to lose control.

It is these types of situations that lead many clients to my office asking questions about the process of obtaining a New Jersey Restraining Order for an incident of domestic violence.

Over the holidays with courts and offices closed, you need to know what to do if you find yourself as the victim of abuse. First and foremost, please call 911. Second, if you find yourself in a dispute, or situation that you feel can escalate, the best thing to do is immediately remove yourself from the situation. Find safe harbor for you and your children with a friend, family member, a hotel, or a shelter. Even if the abuser makes repeated attempts claiming it will not happen again, stay away and let things cool down.

Unfortunately, even with a cooling off period and the best of intentions, sometimes the situation can spiral to violence. It is imperative that you immediately leave (with your children) and put the necessary legal protection in place.

First, you need to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order. This can be done either by your local police department, or at your local County Courthouse. A full listing is available here.

Upon arriving and after filling out some paperwork, you will meet with a judge (or the local police will arrange for you to speak to the Municipal Court Judge). Be very clear and provide as much detail as you can regarding this immediate incident as well as any history of domestic violence. The judge will then determine if a New Jersey Temporary Restraining Order should be issued and, if so the local police can remove the abuser from your home. Additionally, a court date will be set for you and your abuser to appear approximately 7 – 10 days later for a Final New Jersey Restraining Order hearing.

Once done, your very next step is to hire an attorney. During the court appearance for the Final Restraining Order, you will testify as to the events that have transpired. The accused, your abuser, will also be present which can be an unbearably stressful situation for you. Having an experienced attorney by your side who can tirelessly fight for the safety of you and your children is essential.

If you have been a victim of domestic violence in the past, and you sense that the next few weeks might be a hard time likely to incite violence, have a plan in place. Know where you can find safe haven should a disruption occur.

Finally, if you are unsure whether or not your situation qualifies under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act , you should immediate seek the advice of an experienced family lawyer who can evaluate your situation.