When Support Payments are Part of a Final Restraining Order
You’re either the victim or the defendant in a domestic violence case. You’ve gone through the hearing process after the initial temporary restraining order was put in place. The court has signed off on a final restraining order (“FRO”). The order addresses restrictions on contact, parenting time, and allowances for support payments. It all seems set in stone.
This might come as a surprise. When it comes to financial support written in a FRO, the numbers may be provisional. Seemingly, it seems like a contradiction of terms. After all, final and temporary have conflicting meanings.
If you read our article yesterday, you may have noticed that interim financial support is also an issue when it comes to temporary restraining orders. The confusion undoubtedly warrants consultation with an attorney experienced in family law and domestic violence.
Support Payments May be Temporary
Without question, the courts recognize that victims may be left without proper resources as a result of the entry of a final restraining order. Rather than wait to see if a defendant will voluntarily make child support and spousal support payments, the court takes the first step.
In the past, New Jersey case law has supported the notion that financial support ordered as part of an FRO can be challenged. In fact, the matter of Mugan v. Mugan, 555 A. 2d 2 – NJ: Appellate Div. 1989 cited language from a now non-existent statute. The argument was that the victim was not entitled to support because the need for it was “not a loss suffered as a direct result of the act of domestic violence.”
The courts disagreed with the defendant’s assertion. After all, the defendant’s removal from the home necessitated the victim’s need for funds. Certainly, the Legislature did not intend a victim to exchange safety concerns for fear of being without support.
In the meantime, the law regarding financial support and final restraining orders can be found at NJSA 2C:25-29. Here are some essential components of the statute:
- Defendant may have to pay compensatory damages
- Among other things, compensatory damages could include child or spousal support
- Defendant may need to reimburse out of pocket expenses for injuries, repairs
- Defendant may be ordered to pay court costs and attorney’s fees
- Defendant may be required to continue to pay rent or mortgage payments
Emergent Monetary Relief
Despite the preceding allowances, the statute also makes reference to the fact that some payments may be considered emergent monetary relief. Under Section 10, NJSA 2C:25-29, the statute qualifies that “emergency support is for minor children, to the victim and other dependents, if any. An ongoing obligation of support shall be determined at a later date pursuant to applicable law.”
The emphasis on the last line is an indication that the numbers set at the time of the FRO hearing are subject to further evaluation. The bottom line is that the issues of child support and alimony may be reconsidered.