2007 Amendments to the Rules of Court Relating to the Practice of Family Law – By John P. Paone, Jr.

The New Jersey Supreme Court adopted changes to the Rules of Court to be effective September 1, 2007. Several major changes are with respect to the Rules governing the practice of Family Law. The following is a brief description of some of the changes which all divorce practitioners will need to know:

1:6-3(b). The intention of this Rule change is to eliminate the requirement that relief requested in a cross motion relate to the relief requested in the motion being responded to in Family Part matters. The prior rule caused litigants to file separate motions, obtain adjournments or effectively not be able to raise items of relief which the Court found not germane to the original motion.
Unfortunately, due to a drafting error the new Rule can be interpreted as maintaining the requirement of germaneness in Family Part motion practice. It is expected that the language will be corrected to conform with the stated intention of this Rule change as proposed by the New Jersey Supreme Court Family Practice Committee.

5:5-4(c). The Family Part motion cycle is now consolidated for all pre-judgment and post-judgment matters and the new schedule runs on a 24-15-8 day cycle. Previously pre-judgment motions were heard on a 16-8-4 day cycle and most post-judgment motions were heard on a 29-15-8 day cycle. This change is likely to have a great impact on Motion practice as now (with adjournments) litigants will have to wait over one (1) month to have non-emergent pendente lite applications decided.

5:5-4(c). Two (2) copies of papers are now required to be served to adversaries with respect to motions, cross motions and reply certifications.

4:43-2. It is now clear that the Family Part is exempt from this Rule which requires having to file a motion to enter default. Previously, the Supreme Court suspended the application of this Rule to Family Part matters.

5:1-2. This new Rule makes clear that Domestic Partnership Act matters and matters relating to civil unions are cognizable in the Family Part.

5:3-4. This new Rule makes clear that attorneys are not to be impressed into service to represent indigent obligors in child support enforcement matters. This is consistent with an earlier Supreme Court decision which requested the Legislature to fund this right to counsel before litigants can be incarcerated.

5:4-2(g). The Confidential Litigant Information Sheet is now to be signed and certified by the client. Previously, this form was submitted to the Court unsigned by the client or the attorney.

5:5-2(c). Litigants are now required to amend their Case Information Statements (hereinafter CIS) in all cases to inform the Court of any material changes in their income, expenses, assets or liabilities. Previously, parties were under a continuing duty to inform the court of any changes in the information supplied on the Case Information Statement. This Rule change arose out of the unreported Appellate Court opinion, in Kravchenko v. Kravchenko.

Specifically, the issue was whether litigants are required to amend their CIS unilaterally upon the occurrence of a change or only prior to an upcoming trial or motion. The Rule now makes clear that the CIS is to be amended in all cases when material changes occur.

Appendix IX-A(17). Clarification is made to provide that the 14.6% upward adjustment for children 12 or older receiving an initial child support award under the guidelines is also to be applied in subsequent adjustments.

Appendix IX-F. Is modified to reduce the child support guideline limit from $4,420.00 per week net available income to $3,600.00 per week. The Supreme Court Family Practice Committee noted that the increase from the prior limit of $2,900.00 to $4,420.00 per week was so high as to adversely affect the Judge?s ability to fashion child support at these unique income levels. At $3,600.00 per week however, still 95% of New Jersey families will fall within the new guidelines. The Committee has reserved until the next rules cycle reviewing the economic principles of the child support guidelines which has provided a reduction in child support awards from the schedule in effect prior to September 1, 2006.

5:5-10. This is the new Rule number regarding default and Notice for Equitable Distribution which was previously codified under R. 5:5-2(e).

John P. Paone, Jr. is a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He is a former chair of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Family Law Section. He practices law in Woodbridge, New Jersey, with the Law
Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Brown.