A restraining order differs from an order of protection is a few subtle, but very important, ways. Although the function of both is to prevent an abuser from coming in contact with you (e.g. physically, telephonically, or virtually), nuanced differences exist regarding length and the penalties associated with the abuser violating them.
A restraining order is used by a judge to protect a person usually from threats or physical abuse. A restraining order, in a certain sense, can be broader than an order of protection because it can include children, family, and personal property in its zone of protection.
An order of protection (i.e. protective order) can include demands requiring an abuser to stop threatening, stalking, or physically assaulting a victim. They often include a provision mandating that the abuser stop contacting the victim in any form (including virtually through Internet chats, Facebook, e-mail, etc.)
In almost all cases, it is free to apply for either a restraining order or order of protection in New Jersey. The state bears the cost because of the important interest in maintaining safety within the home, workplace, and society at large.
Additionally, a restraining order is usually only valid for a set duration of time determined by a judge on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes this set period of time will be 6 months while other times it could be a few years. However, an order of protection generally lasts much longer (sometimes for life). Usually, they are put in place for at least a year and can be renewed for life.
Notwithstanding these distinctions, it is worth noting that a domestic violence final restraining order in NJ has the effect of a protective order and lasts forever.
Furthermore, another fundamental difference between a restraining order and an order of protection is the penalty associated with each of them. With a restraining order, a violation will result in a criminal contempt charge. Although this is a serious criminal charge, the penalty for violating a protective order can be much more severe. Instead of a mere disorderly persons offense (like contempt), your abuser can be charged with a misdemeanor and even a felony (depending on the surrounding circumstances, the intensity of the violation, and prior violations committed).
If you recently were the victim of a physical assault carried out by an individual who has been know to abuse you either physically or psychologically, your life and safety might be in danger. It is crucial to explore the possibility of seeking a restraining order or order of protection against this abuser and retaining an experienced attorney to help protect your rights.