Should You Amend?
Double Check Your TRO!
Your current incident:
Does it contain:
Your prior history:
Does it contain:
After experiencing domestic violence, you may choose to get legal protection from an abuser by filing a temporary restraining order (TRO). A restraining order is a civil order from the Family Part of the Superior Court. It makes it a crime for the abuser to have any contact with you in any way, including in person, by telephone, by text, email or messaging or through another person.
After filing for a restraining order, you may realize that important details and information are wrong or missing from your TRO. To correct your TRO, you must amend it.
What does it mean to amend a TRO?
When you amend your TRO, it means that you add or change important information in it. This could mean adding information about incidents, or correcting dates or details that may have been listed wrong. At your final restraining order hearing, you can only tell the judge things that are mentioned in your TRO, so it is very important that your TRO is complete and accurate.
When should I amend my TRO?
As soon as you know that there is a mistake or that something is missing from your TRO, you should amend it. The court has to serve the defendant with the amended TRO and make sure that the defendant has enough time to prepare their defense. While amendment is possible up until your trial date, if the defendnat has not had enough time to prepare, your trial may be postponed.
Why should I amend my TRO?
You can only tell the judge in a final restraining order trial things that are mentioned in your TRO. Therefore, you should amend a TRO when there is an incomplete or inaccurate description of the most recent incident of violence, all relevant crimes are not claimed, or because some past incidents of violence were left out. At trial, the court will give the current domestic violence incident the most consideration, so it is important that the incident is described accurately. Be sure that your TRO includes a brief, but detailed, account of the current incident of violence, including any physical violence, injuries, threats, stalking, or destruction of property.
On your TRO, you will see check boxes of the 19 crimes of domestic violence. Make sure all the crimes that apply to your case are checked off. One incident of domestic violence can include more than one crime. For example, a defendant who throws a victim’s cell phone at her, injuring the victim and destroying the phone, has committed the acts of assault, harassment, and criminal mischief, all of which should be checked on the TRO. For more information, see The 19 Crimes of Domestic Violence.
There is a section on your TRO entitled, “Any prior history of violence reported or unreported?” If you have a prior history of abuse, be sure that the box labeled “Yes” is checked off. Review your past history of violence. Be sure that your TRO lists all past incidents of domestic violence that occurred during your relationship with the abuser whether you reported them or not. Past events when the defendant subjected you to physical violence, verbal abuse, threats to kill or harm you, or unwanted following or surveillance can be included on your TRO. Some forms of domestic violence are continuous and occur throughout the course of a relationship. Examples of continuous forms of violence can include the defendant preventing you from communicating with your family and friends or regularly subjecting you to put-downs and profanities. You can include ongoing types of domestic violence in your TRO.
If any of the above is not accurate on your TRO, you should amend it.
How do I amend my TRO?
Covid-19 Alert: As of December 2020, you do not need to go to the courthouse to amend a TRO. You may fill out a form and submit it through the JEDS system. The form can be found at www.njcourts.gov/sites/default/files/forms/12600_amend_tro_cmplnt.pdf. Instructions for submitting the form can be found at https://www.njcourts.gov/self-help/jeds.
Go to the Domestic Violence Unit of your county courthouse from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and request to amend your TRO. TROs cannot be amended at police stations or municipal courts.
Before going to the courthouse, make a list of the changes you want made to your TRO. Make sure that you have the correct dates and times for any new incidents. Documents such as medical records, police reports, letters, time-stamped emails, and text messages can help you pinpoint dates of prior incidents. If you cannot remember exact dates, you can generalize. For example, if you remember that the defendant threatened you in 2009 when it was snowing, your TRO could state that the incident occurred in “Winter 2009.”
You may be asked to write out the changes you would like to include in your TRO yourself or, in some cases, a court clerk may interview you and help you with the drafting process. Ask to review a copy of the completed amended TRO and double check that all dates, times, and facts are accurate. Be sure that all prior incidents of violence are included. If you notice a mistake, ask the court staff to revise your TRO.
When you are satisfied that your TRO is complete, you will be asked to sign the document. It is important that you have confidence in the accuracy of your restraining order. By signing the document, you are certifying to the court that the entire TRO is true and correct.
You may be asked to appear before a hearing officer or judge. If this occurs, the court may request that you provide brief testimony about the changes made or new incidents of violence added to your TRO. If you are not fluent in English or communicate using sign language, you have a right to a court interpreter. If you require an interpreter, be sure to request one prior to appearing before a hearing officer or judge. Legal proceedings can be complicated and it is essential that you understand everything that is said.
After you have amended your TRO, you will receive an updated copy with your signature. A second copy will be placed in your court file. A sheriff’s officer will also serve the defendant with a copy of your amended TRO. Be sure to keep a copy of the amended TRO in a safe place and a copy with you at all times. Consider keeping a folder with copies of your original and amended TRO, evidence, and other important documents as you prepare for trial.
Can I amend my TRO more than once?
There is no limit to the number of times that a plaintiff can amend before trial. Sometimes, it is necessary to amend a TRO more than once. Your case will appear more credible, though, if your first amendment is as detailed and exact as possible, and there are not repeated amendments.
Will my hearing date change because I amended my TRO?
In the interest of fairness, the court may adjourn (postpone) your hearing to ensure that the defendant has time to prepare a defense to the new claims in your amended TRO. Postponement is especially likely if the defendant is served with an amended TRO on or near the trial date. If you amend well ahead of your trial date, postponement is less likely.
It’s my trial day, and I just realized that my TRO needs to be amended. Now what?
If your trial has not yet begun, tell the sheriff’s officer or court clerk assigned to your judge that you wish to amend. You may be instructed to go to the Domestic Violence Unit, meet with a court clerk, and appear before a hearing officer or judge, as described above. Your trial date may be postponed to give the defendant time to prepare a defense.
If your trial has already started, you can request that your TRO be amended through your testimony. Sometimes, circumstances may require you to add additional information or fix mistakes in your TRO while you are telling the court about what happened. Although amending through testimony is an option, you should always try to amend ahead of time. Testimonial amendment can delay the final outcome of your hearing. You should review your TRO for accuracy before beginning your trial to make sure that you present the strongest case possible. If English is not your first language, have someone read through the TRO with you in your preferred language.
What if I do not amend my TRO?
Sometimes you may not want your hearing date to be postponed further because of work obligations or personal reasons. If you prefer to keep your original hearing date, you can, but consider whether the information on your TRO is specific enough for the court to issue a final restraining order. If so, then going forward without amending might be a good option. However, if there are major things missed or described incorrectly, your case will not be as strong as possible.
Where can I get more information or legal help?
Many victims of domestic violence need additional support, safe housing, or legal help. Help is available for victims of domestic violence. You can contact the following organizations for additional assistance.
The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24-hour confidential service, 7 days a week, and can be reached at: 1-800-572-SAFE (7233) or the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence website.
See Domestic Violence for more information about domestic violence rights, including access to Legal Services of New Jersey’s comprehensive guide to domestic violence law.
For videos explaining how to file a temporary restraining order, see our Temporary Restraining Order 4 part video series.
For videos explaining how to represent yourself at a final restraining order hearing, see our Final Restraining Order 7 part video series.
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).
This information last reviewed: Jan 4, 2021