2015 Legal Services of New Jersey. Published by Legal Services of New Jersey. AS YOUR COURT date approaches for your final restraining

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  Cuáles Son Sus Derechos Legales: La versión en español la encontrará al reverso Looking Out For Your Legal Rights March 2015 Volume 34, Number 2 If you need more time to prepare for your final restraining
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Cuáles Son Sus Derechos Legales: La versión en español la encontrará al reverso Looking Out For Your Legal Rights March 2015 Volume 34, Number 2 If you need more time to prepare for your final restraining order hearing, you may ask the court for an adjournment (later court date). Page 1 Can I file for divorce if my spouse has a domestic violence restraining order against me? Page 5 It is against the law for an employer to ask you about your criminal record up to and during the initial employment interview. Page 10 If you are trying to get welfare, SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, or other assistance, there are some things you should know. Page 11 Cuáles Son Sus Derechos Legales La versión en español la encontrará al reverso. Published by Legal Services of New Jersey When You Need More Time: How to Obtain an Adjournment (Later Court Date) for Your Final Restraining Order Hearing 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. If you need more time to prepare for your final restraining order hearing, you may ask the court for an adjournment (later court date). 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, Continued on page 2 New Jersey s Community Legal Education Newsletter continued from page 1 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 On the drop-down navigation bar, go to courts and select your county. You will be directed to the web page of your county court house. Then, select Family Division. You can locate the Domestic Violence Unit s Glossary 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 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 About Looking Out Looking Out For Your Legal Rights is published 10 times a year by Legal Services of New Jersey. If you are a Legal Services client, you can pick up a copy at your local Legal Services office. You may also read Looking Out on our website at Subscriptions Subscriptions are $20 a year. For more information, please Back Issues View back issues at Change of Address If you are moving, please send us your new address and a copy of your Looking Out mailing label. Looking Out For Your Legal Rights Comments If you have any suggestions or comments about Looking Out, we would like to hear from you. Please send all correspondence to: Editor, Looking Out Legal Services of New Jersey P.O. Box 1357 Edison, NJ This newsletter is for general information only. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. A portion of the cost of this publication was supported by funds provided by the IOLTA Fund of the Bar of New Jersey Legal Services of New Jersey Looking Out For Your Legal Rights is a federally registered trademark of Legal Services of New Jersey. 2 Looking Out For Your Legal Rights / March 2015 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 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. 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 Looking Out For Your Legal Rights / March 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. 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 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, s, and other relevant evidence to support your case. For more information about domestic violence laws in New Jersey, please visit our website, This site also includes links to videos explaining the temporary and final restraining order process. If you have questions or need legal help, call LSNJLAW SM, Legal Services of New Jersey s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at LSNJ-LAW ( ), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Go to to apply for help online. By Victoria Nicholson, Staff Attorney, LSNJ Domestic Violence Representation Project 4 Looking Out For Your Legal Rights / March 2015 Divorce and Domestic Violence Restraining Orders How to Serve a Divorce Complaint on a Spouse Who Has a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Against You A NEW JERSEY CASE was recently published that discusses this issue. In a case named J.C. v. M.C. 1, a court talked about: The requirement that a divorce complaint be served or delivered to the other spouse in the way spelled out in the court rules. This is called service of process or serving the divorce complaint. The restrictions in a domestic violence restraining order that may prevent seeking information about the current location of the person found to be a victim of domestic violence. An alternative way to serve the divorce papers without violating the restraining order. Can I file for divorce if my spouse has a domestic violence restraining order against me? Yes. The filing of a divorce complaint or other court actions does not, by itself, violate a domestic violence restraining order. Either party has a right to access the court to terminate a marriage. The court in J.C. v. M.C. said, [n]othing in the domestic violence act even remotely reflects a 1. The cite to this case is 438 N.J. Super. 325 (Ch. Div. 2013). Be careful to avoid filing papers with the court that may be viewed as harassing the spouse who has a restraining order against you. legislative intent to block anyone, victim or defendant, from seeking a divorce against the other party. However, you should be very careful to avoid filing papers with the court that may be viewed as harassing the spouse who has a restraining order against you. Litigation that is not needed to resolve a genuine legal issue may be viewed by the courts as frivolous or repetitive. Frivolous means a case that has no legitimate legal issue. This can stem from a case that is filed after the issue was already decided by a court. A frivolous case is one that a judge has no legal authority to decide. For example, asking the court to stop your spouse from dating someone else is not supported by any law and would be considered frivolous. Preparing a divorce complaint requires you to describe facts about genuine legal issues. False, mean-spirited, or unnecessarily hurtful statements may be viewed by the court as harassing the spouse who has a restraining order against you. It is best to stick to the facts and avoid what may be seen as name-calling in your papers. If you file papers with the court that are viewed as harassing, you can be charged with violating the restraining order. If the court finds that abusive litigation tactics are being Looking Out For Your Legal Rights / March Divorce in New Jersey A Self-Help Guide provides the information and forms you need to file for divorce on your own. used, it can impose sanctions and even require that future court papers be reviewed by a judge before they can be sent to the other party. 2 How do I file for divorce? Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) has published a self-help guide on filing for divorce. You can find out more about the procedure for filing a divorce and related legal issues on the Family and Relationships section of our website, You can find a link to LSNJ s Divorce in New Jersey A Self-Help Guide, under Top Searches on You can order a digital PDF of the guide with all of the forms at https://checkout.lsnj.org. What is service of process? If you have filed a divorce complaint, or any legal action, you are required to make sure that the other party is given a copy of the divorce complaint and related legal papers. This is called serving the other party or service of process, and court rules require that it be done in a specific way. The court 2. Parish v. Parish, 412 N.J. Super. 39 (App. Div. 2010). rules also require you to provide evidence to the court that you completed service in accordance with those rules. Personal service, that is hand delivery, is considered the best form of service and should be done by the sheriff s office. If the other party has an attorney, you may serve him or her by mailing the papers to that attorney. Some other ways to complete service are described below. Is it OK to serve a divorce complaint on my spouse who has a domestic violence restraining order against me? Yes, if you do it the right way. The J.C. v. M.C. case says, [s]o long as the [divorce] complaint is served by a legally designated and appropriate third person such as a sheriff s officer, deputized process server, or other legally approved third person, rather than by the domestic violence defendant personally, such action does not violate the terms and spirit of the [Prevention of Domestic Violence] Act. (emphasis added). This means that if your spouse has a domestic violence restraining order against you and you know where your spouse lives (for example, if your spouse continues to live in the marital home), then you are within your rights to serve the divorce complaint by a sheriff s officer hand delivering the papers to your spouse. The sheriff s officer hand delivering the papers is not a violation of the restraining order as long as the papers are not harassing in nature. (See section above about avoiding frivolous litigation and false or mean-spirited statements in a divorce complaint.) Do not try to hand deliver the divorce complaint and related papers to your 6 Looking Out For Your Legal Rights / March 2015 spouse yourself. This will not count as good service and it will in most cases be a violation of the restraining order. Use the sheriff s officer to serve the papers, or mail them to your spouse s attorney s office (if your spouse currently has an attorney). A problem may arise when another form of service is attempted. When there is no restraining order between spouses, one can agree to accept service of the divorce complaint and related papers by regular mail. It is different when there is a restraining order in place. Just asking your spouse who has a domestic violence restraining order against you if he or she is willing to accept service by mail may violate the terms of the restraining order as a form of prohibited contact or communication. Asking someone else to ask your spouse may also violate the restraining order. So, if your spouse has a domestic violence restraining order against you, do not try to send the divorce complaint and related papers directly to your spouse by mail. You should not communicate with him or her directly about the divorce. If I don t know where my spouse lives, is it ok to look for my spouse who has a restraining order against me? No. The rules of court require the person filing the divorce complaint to take steps to find their spouse if his or her residence is unknown. This is called diligent inquiry. However, it is very important that you avoid invading the privacy of a spouse who has a domestic violence restraining order against you. Do not try to find your spouse. The J.C. v. M.C. case warns against possibly violating a restraining order by trying to find where your spouse currently lives. [A] violation may occur when, before service, a domestic violence defendant [chooses on his own to start] efforts to locate, confirm and compromise the confidentiality of the protected party s whereabouts, even for the purported purpose of service of process. Then how do I serve my spouse? The case recognizes that spouses who have a restraining order against them and do not know where to serve their spouse are in a tough situation. The case, J.C. v. M.C., describes another way to complete service. It says that a practical option for the divorce complaint and related papers to be provided to the spouse who has a domestic violence restraining order against you without violating the party s confidentiality of location, is for the court to enter an order directing the court s domestic violence unit to forward the summons and complaint to the spouse via certified mail to his or her last known address on file in the confidential records of the [court s] domestic violence unit. That case also discusses what to do if the last known address for your spouse that is on record in the court s domestic violence unit is no longer where your spouse Looking Out For Your Legal Rights / March lives. It says that the domestic violence unit should use other forms of contact information, like a cell phone number or address, to try to communicate with the spouse to find out his or her current mailing address and then send the papers through certified mail or, as a last resort, to send a scanned copy of the papers to your spouse s address. Will the court take care of serving my spouse automatically? No. Courts will NOT automatically follow this procedure for service, even though a published case says that this is a good way to serve a spouse when there is a restraining order and the spouse s current address is unknown to you. If (1) your spouse has a restraining order against you, and (2) you do not know where your spouse currently lives, you must make a motion to the court to ask for a court order for alternate service. Alternate service means giving notice to your spouse in a way that is different than what is required by the rules of court. To file a motion, you can use the Ne
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