According to the dictionary, the word “final” means “not to be altered or undone”. Similarly, when a judge enters a final restraining order under the domestic violence laws of New Jersey, its final and the protections remain in place forever. That is, unless the defendant files an application with the Court at a later date seeking to terminate the restraints (which application is referred to as a “Carfagno Application”).
Under Carfagno, a defendant has the right to file an application seeking to terminate a final restraining order if that defendant (referred to as the “Movant”) can show that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the entry of the restraining order and that “good cause” exists to terminate the restraints imposed by that final restraining order. As to the “good cause” component, our court system has laid out 11 factors to determine whether “good cause” exists. Those factors are as follows:
- Whether the victim consents to lifting the restraining order;
- Whether the victim still fears the movant;
- The nature of the current relationship between the victim and the movant;
- Whether the movant has been convicted of contempt for violating the FRO;
- Whether the movant has a continuing involvement with drug or alcohol abuse;
- Whether the movant has been involved in other violent acts with other persons;
- Whether the movant has engaged in counseling;
- The age and health of the movant;
- Whether the victim is acting in good faith when opposing the movant’s request to set aside the FRO;
- Whether another jurisdiction has entered a restraining order protecting the victim from the movant; and
- Any other factors deemed relevant by the Court.
The movant MUST ALSO provide the Court with the complete record (which must include all pleadings, the court file, and a copy of the transcript of the underlying domestic violence hearing[s] giving rise to the entry of the restraining order) so that the Court can read everything that supported the entry of that FRO (as opposed to relying on the representations of the movant as to why the FRO was granted).
Presuming that the movant provides the “complete record” to the Court and a credible application addressing the 11 Carfagno factors listed above, the Court must then determine whether the movant has met the initial burden of showing there’s been a substantial change in circumstances since the FRO was entered. If the movant provides the required materials and passes the initial burden, the Court then determines whether “good cause” exists to terminate the FRO.
The reason behind this initial “substantial change in circumstances” burden is to protect victims of domestic violence from being “forced to repeatedly relitigate issues with the perpetrator, as that itself can constitute a form of abusive and controlling behavior.” Absent this initial burden, nothing would stop perpetrators of domestic violence from continuously dragging victims into the courtroom year after year, forcing the victims to deal with the perpetrator face-to-face despite the prior entry of a FRO. Thus, the initial “substantial change of circumstance” burden acts to balance the competing interests of the victim and the perpetrator of domestic violence in the event the Court is called upon to determine whether it is necessary (for the protection of the victim) to continue the previously entered FRO.
If there’s been a substantial change in circumstances in your life since a FRO was entered against you, or if you are a victim of domestic violence and are fighting to keep a FRO in place, consider scheduling a consultation with one of the experienced domestic violence lawyers at Diamond & Diamond to learn what your options are. Our domestic violence lawyers are available Monday through Saturday and can meet to discuss your situation in person at our Short Hills or in our Ocean County office, or by way of zoom or over the phone.
 Quoting Kanaszka v. Kunen, 313 N.J.Super 600, 608 (App. Div. 1998).