Judiciary Joins With Hospitals And Safe Houses To Assist Domestic Violence Victims

STATE – The New Jersey Judiciary has joined with hospitals and safe houses to help victims of domestic violence apply for temporary restraining orders without going to a courthouse.

Through the Hospital to Court Safety Assistance Project and the Safe House to Court Safety Assistance Project, domestic violence victims can appear before a judge via videoconferencing if they are being treated in an emergency room or have sought refuge in a safe house.

“It’s often difficult for domestic violence victims to seek a temporary restraining order if they are injured and need medical attention or if they are afraid to leave a safe house,” said Judge Glenn A. Grant, acting administrative director of the courts. “Allowing victims to apply for a TRO via videoconferencing gives them protection from their abuser, affords them some peace of mind and helps expedite the legal process for obtaining a final restraining order.”

The program was piloted in the Passaic Vicinage in partnership with St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson and has expanded to include hospitals in Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson and Union counties and safe houses in Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris and Passaic counties.

The programs are funded with $172,174 through the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is administered by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice within the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety.

New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act permits all victims of domestic violence to obtain a restraining order to protect them from further harm if someone is hurting them. An abuser can be a spouse, former spouse or the co-parent of a child. Victims are protected if they are living with or have lived with the abuser or if they are dating or have dated the abuser.

Without leaving the hospital or safe house, a victim can obtain a restraining order during court hours, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. A social worker or nurse will begin the process and make the initial contact with the court.

When a victim files for a restraining order from the hospital or safe house during court hours, a court professional conducts the initial interview and assists the victim to complete the application for a restraining order using a phone and over a closed encrypted video conferencing system. An interpreter is provided if needed.

After the application is complete, the victim appears before a judge or hearing officer over the video network. This is when the victim can discuss the situation with the judge or hearing officer.

The judge or hearing officer makes a decision regarding the application for a temporary restraining order. If the order is granted, court staff faxes a temporary restraining order to the hospital or safe house for the victim’s signature.

After the hearing, the judge or hearing officer provides the victim with additional information about the court process and other available resources. The hearing officer then sets a date for the victim to appear in court to obtain a final restraining order.

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