If you are a victim and your abuser has a gun or you feel unsafe for other reasons, it is important to work with a victim advocate. The following organizations can help you find an advocate free of charge:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE;
- VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846;
- The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 572-SAFE;
- Any of the local domestic violence programs listed here.
It is also helpful to have a lawyer assist you, particularly when you are seeking a restraining order. You can find a lawyer using the New Jersey Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from Legal Services of New Jersey at (732) 572-9100.
How to Get Protection
What kind of restraining orders are available in New Jersey?
New Jersey courts can issue two types of domestic violence restraining orders. In both of these orders, the court can help protect you from gun violence or threats of gun violence by an intimate partner:
- Temporary restraining orders1*
- Final restraining orders2*
Courts can prohibit defendants*subject to temporary restraining orders from purchasing or possessing*firearms and require them to turn their firearms over to police or order the police to retrieve them.3 Defendants subject to final restraining orders are automatically prohibited by New Jersey law from purchasing or possessing firearms4 and are required to turn their firearms over to police, unless the court orders law enforcement to retrieve the firearms.5
How can you get a restraining order?
Click here to see if you are eligible for a restraining order in New Jersey.
You can find your local court here.
New Jersey’s official guide to getting a restraining order can be found here. The court will have all of the court forms you need to complete.
What do I do if I do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but I still need protection from someone?
If you do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but need protection from someone (including a stranger, an acquaintance, or another person not covered under a domestic violence protection order), you might qualify for some other type of order. Contact VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846 or a lawyer for more information. You can find a lawyer using the New Jersey Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free-and low-cost legal help is available from Legal Services of New Jersey at (732) 572-9100.
How can the court help protect you?
In New Jersey, defendants*subject to final restraining orders are prohibited from purchasing or possessing* guns for as long as the order lasts or for two years, whichever is longer.6 Courts can, but are not required to, prohibit defendants subject to temporary restraining orders from purchasing or possessing firearms.7 In a temporary restraining order, the court can, and in a final restraining order, the court will order the surrender or removal of the defendant’s firearms by:
- Ordering the defendant to immediately turn over his/her/their firearms to law enforcement and ordering the law enforcement agent to accompany the defendant to retrieve their firearms; or
- Ordering law enforcement to search for and seize the defendant’s firearms.8
At the plaintiff’s* request, sometimes courts provide additional protections from gun violence, such as:
- Ordering law enforcement to go to your home at scheduled times to check in on your safety;
- Scheduling a follow up compliance hearing *to ensure that the defendant has not accessed additional firearms since the order was issued;
- If the guns are shared marital property, the court can order the sale of the guns and divide the money between you;
- Ordering the defendant to stay away from you, your children, your family, and anyone else in immediate danger, based on the threats and/or actions of the defendant;
- Ordering the defendant not to hurt you or threaten to hurt you in the future;
- Anything else you need to be safe.
How will the court know what you need to protect you from the defendant’s firearms violence?
In your petition* and during any of the hearings* you participate in when you are seeking protection, you will have the opportunity to tell the court about the defendant’s* threats or acts of abuse, especially ones involving firearms. Every situation is different, and it is important to talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. You can find a lawyer using the New Jersey Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free-and low-cost legal help is available from Legal Services of New Jersey at (732) 572-9100.
Your story will help the court decide what relief* to give you. Whether you are filling out court forms or speaking directly to the court, it is important to tell the court about the violence you experienced (working with your lawyer, if you have one), especially if the defendant used or threatened to use a firearm against you, a member of your family, any member of the community, or your pet. Among other things, this may include telling the court:
- About incidents of physical violence or threats of physical violence, including dates wherever you can;
- How the defendant used firearms to hurt or threaten you, your family, your pet(s), or anyone in the community;
- If you fear that the defendant may use firearms violence or threats of firearms violence in the future;
- If the defendant has threatened to harm him/her/themself. This may be a sign that the defendant intends to use a dangerous weapon like a firearm against you, themself, or other people;
- If you can, the type(s), number, and location of firearms the defendant has access.