As your court date approaches for your final restraining order (FRO) hearing, you may find that you are not ready to proceed with a trial. You may ask for an adjournment (later court date) if you need more time to prepare your case, speak with an attorney, or otherwise are unable to make that date and time. This is called requesting an adjournment of your case. You may request an adjournment of your case either on or before your court date. Typically, domestic violence hearings are postponed for one to two weeks. In some cases, adjournments may be shorter or longer.
During the time between hearings, your temporary restraining order remains in place. This means that the defendant is prohibited from contacting you or coming near you, your home, or your workplace. The defendant is also prohibited from contacting people who are listed as protected parties on your complaint, such as children or family members. During this time, the defendant can be criminally charged for violating the restraining order. Report any violations to the police.
Making an Adjournment Request Before Your Court Date
If you know before your court date that you will need more time to prepare your case or to speak with an attorney, you can ask the court to give you a later court date. You should call your county’s domestic violence unit and let them know you would like a later court date. To find the number for your county’s domestic violence unit, go to the New Jersey Courts website. On the navigation bar, go to “courts” and select your county. You will be directed to the web page of your county court house. Then, select “Court Offices/Divisions/Family Division.” You can locate the Domestic Violence Unit’s telephone number on your county’s Family Division web page. Some counties allow adjournment requests to be taken directly over the phone while others will ask that you fax/mail in a written request. If your county asks for a letter, be sure to verify the name, fax number, and address of the court staff to whose attention you should send your request.
Many people do not have fax machines at home, but there are locations where fax machines are available to the public. Public libraries, post offices, and office supply stores often have fax machines that may be used for a nominal fee. There is also computer software available that can allow you to fax from your home computer if you have a scanner. If you do not have access to a fax machine, call your county’s domestic violence unit and tell them that you will make a written request by regular mail. You may also hand deliver the written request.
In your written adjournment request, include the name of your case, the docket number, and your scheduled trial date. Tell the court the reason for your adjournment request, such as illness, because you are seeking counsel, or because your witnesses are unavailable. Be sure to let the court know of any dates in the upcoming month when you are unavailable.
Submit your request to the court as early as possible. Be sure to call and follow up on an adjournment request before your trial date. If you do not receive a phone call or written notification from the court that your matter has been adjourned, you should attend court on your original date. It is possible that you will still have to appear on the court date and make the request in person even if you have made a request before your court date.
Making an Adjournment Request on Your Court Date
If you were unable to obtain an adjournment before your trial date, you will need to make your request to the court in person. Be sure to attend court on the date and time indicated on the fourth page of your temporary restraining order. When you arrive to court on the date and time in your temporary restraining order, you will wait outside of the courtroom where you have been assigned. A sheriff’s officer or court staff person will check in each person who has court on that date. You should provide the court with a reason for your adjournment request, such as to obtain an attorney, because you need additional time to prepare, or to allow for the appearance of witnesses. Some courts will provide you with a continuance order immediately without making an appearance in the courtroom. Other courts may require you to appear in front of the judge to make your request. If you are called in front of the judge, you will need to repeat your request and the reason that you would like a later court date. To help with scheduling, advise the court of any days in the upcoming weeks that you cannot attend court. The judge will then decide whether to grant your adjournment request. Adjournment requests can sometimes be denied. This may happen if there have been multiple postponements. In case this happens, come to court as prepared for trial as possible. If your request is granted, wait for the court staff to provide you with a copy of your continuance order before you leave the court house.
Adjournment and Additional Relief
If you request an adjournment at the court house, you may ask the court to give you additional relief, including financial relief or return of property. If there is something that you need before the next court date, you can ask the court to order that relief in your temporary restraining order. Note that the court will only consider requests for emergency relief to maintain the status quo during the period between trial dates. The court will hear requests for emergency financial relief, payment of bills, and return of personal property. Financial relief can include an emergent order for spousal or child support, or the payment of expenses, like utility bills or ongoing payment of the rent or mortgage. You can also request the return of clothing, important personal property, like checkbooks or passports, or the return of possession of a car that you used before the temporary restraining order was entered.
You should limit your requests to items that cannot wait until your return court date. You may ask for relief for non-emergent issues—such as the payment of medical bills arising from the abuse or the return of furniture—on your new hearing date if you obtain a final restraining order.
It is also possible for the defendant in your matter to make requests to return to the home to get personal belongings or to have parenting time with your shared children. You have the right to object to these requests if you are concerned about defendant’s presence in the home or his/her interaction with your children. If the court decides to allow the defendant to return home to gather personal belongings, it will also order a police escort. Tell the court of concerns about your safety or the safety of your children if the defendant asks to return to the home or modify custody provisions of the original restraining order.
Preparing for Your New Trial Date
Begin to prepare for your trial once you have obtained an adjournment and are assigned a new hearing date. If you asked for an adjournment to get an attorney, take steps to find one. Getting legal help can take time. It is important that you seek assistance as soon as possible. Contact people you wish to testify on your behalf and find out when they are available. Consider whether police officers or other witnesses require a subpoena. Gather police reports, pictures, medical records, texts, emails, and other relevant evidence to support your case. See Subpoenas in Domestic Violence Actions.
Also, see How to Get a Restraining Order and the LSNJ Videos Series, which explains the temporary and final restraining order process. (Click on the Family and Relationships tab.) If you have questions or need legal help, call LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888- LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529). You may also apply for help online.
Adjournment: When the court postpones your case to a later date.
Continuance Order: An order issued by the court that postpones your trial to a later date.
Docket Number: The number assigned to your case by the court. Example: FV-12-345-15.
This information last reviewed: Jul 25, 2017