The court changed the process of getting a domestic violence restraining order since the pandemic started. Some changes may become permanent, although we do not know that for sure. This article explains a few of the changes.
A victim of domestic violence can now apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO) by calling the appropriate county courthouse.
A victim can apply in the county where they live or are sheltered, where the abuser lives, or where the act of domestic violence happened. Every courthouse has a special number for this purpose, and they are supposed to answer calls or return messages within 24 hours. See County Phone Numbers: Temporary Restraining Orders (from New Jersey Courts) for courthouse phone numbers.
When you call, a court staff person will ask how you are related to the abuser, what the abuser has done to cause you to apply for a TRO, and if there has been any domestic violence in the past. It will be helpful for you to write down this information for yourself before you call the courthouse. A judge will review the information, and if the application is approved, a date will be set for a trial to determine if the restraining order will become final, and the court will email you a copy of your TRO. It must then be personally delivered to (“served on”) the abuser. See Preparing for a Domestic Violence Trial for more guidance on preparing to apply for a TRO.
It is important to think through the safety issues involved in applying for a TRO by phone. Make sure you are alone when you make the call and that no one you would not want to overhear you can do so. Delete the call from your phone log so the abuser cannot find out that you called. If necessary, go to a different place and use a different phone, but keep in mind you may have to leave a message and be available to take a return call from the courthouse. If your application is approved, the police have to serve the abuser in person. That can cause a dangerous situation if you are in the same place as the abuser.
Warning: The option to apply for a temporary restraining order by phone is convenient, but if you do not think it is safe, you can still go to the courthouse in person during business hours. If you believe you are in immediate danger, call the police or go to the police station. The police can assist you in applying for a TRO.
You can now amend a restraining order by filling out a form and sending it into the court.
Amending your temporary restraining order means changing or adding information to it. It is important to make sure that your TRO is complete and accurate and that it mentions every incident you want to tell the judge about at trial. See our article, Telling the Whole Story: Amending a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order. After you fill out the form and send it to the courthouse, most courts will make the changes and send you an amended TRO by email without you needing to appear before a judge. Some courts will call you to go over the information before they issue the amended TRO. It is also possible the court will have you appear remotely to speak to the judge. The form you need to amend your TRO can be is: How to File an Amended Domestic Violence Complaint (from New Jersey Courts).
Send your form via JEDS
The court has a special system for sending forms to the court online. It is called JEDS. JEDS will not work on a mobile device; you need a computer to use it. See our article How to Set Up an Account with the Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) System to File Family Law Documents in Superior Court. To learn more about JEDS, see Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) (from New Jersey Courts). You can still mail the forms or take them to the court in person if you are not able to send them with JEDS.
The court now conducts many kinds of cases remotely or virtually (not in person), usually using Zoom or Microsoft Teams. To participate in a virtual proceeding, you will need a device (phone or computer) to log into the court session. Generally, a final restraining order trial will be conducted in person, but there may be exceptions if a judge decides there is a good reason. It is worth asking if the hearing can be virtual if you have a special need for that. There could also be other reasons the court decides to have appearances remotely. Read your paperwork carefully to make sure you know whether you are required to appear in person or remotely.
If you are having a remote trial but you do not own a device that you can use for that purpose, the courthouses have computers you can use. Ask about using the court’s computer. Many Legal Services offices now have computers for you to use as well. Call our hotline, your local Legal Services office, or your county domestic violence agency for more information.
If you need help preparing for a remote trial, see our article Preparing for an Online Final Restraining Order Hearing? Let Us Help.
This information last reviewed: Oct 8, 2021