New Jersey Residents May Now Secure Uncontested Divorce Judgment Without Court Appearance
The New Jersey court system has been working to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic by allowing easier access to certain court procedures without requiring in-person court appearances. The court system has, for example, removed the “undue hardship” requirement for pleading by mail to certain infractions and misdemeanors. In the family court arena, the administrative office just issued a directive allowing certain uncontested divorce matters to be fully resolved “on the papers” without the necessity of an in-person hearing. Continue reading for details on the change and how to obtain a judgment in an uncontested divorce, and reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey divorce attorney if you have any questions.
Parties may obtain judgment in uncontested divorces without court appearance
On June 5, 2020, the Administrative Office of the Courts issued Directive #18-20. The Directive allows New Jersey courts to enter a judgment granting a divorce in certain matters without requiring the parties to appear in person for a hearing. The trial court retains the discretion to order a hearing, either in-person or via video or teleconference if any issues require resolution. The procedure allows for judgment in cases involving default and uncontested divorces. The same procedure applies to annulments, dissolution of civil unions, and dissolution of domestic partnerships.
Default divorces are available in situations where one party has filed for divorce, has appropriately served their spouse with notice of the divorce, and the other spouse has not filed any response with the court. Uncontested divorces are those in which both parties agree to the divorce and do not have any disputes on any issues pertaining to the divorce (custody, property distribution, etc.).
Pursuant to the Directive, a party may obtain a divorce “on the papers” without a hearing so long as they are only asking the court to either:
● terminate the marriage alone, with no additional relief sought; or
● terminate the marriage, and the petition includes a signed agreement or prior court order that completely resolves all issues between the spouses (concerning child custody, child support, and any other matters). If there is a property settlement agreement, each party must submit a certification that they understand they have a right to an independent review of the agreement before signing.
Parties can seek this relief with or without counsel. However, we strongly encourage parties to retain independent counsel to review any property settlement agreement and ensure that all procedures and issues are properly resolved. If there are any disputes between the parties over divorce-related issues, this fast-track procedure is not available.
Advice and Representation for Your New Jersey Family Law Matter
If you are dealing with divorce, child custody, alimony, or other family law issues in New Jersey, speak with efficient and effective family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro. Call us today at 908-964-0102.