Are the Family Courts in New Jersey closed? Fortunately for those who need the assistance of a judge, the short answer is “no.” The Courts are not closed. In fact, the Family Part of the Superior Court in New Jersey remains open and operating (mostly) as usual! Nevertheless, you might have a few questions.
Can you file a Complaint for Divorce? Absolutely.
Can you file a Notice of Motion? Absolutely.
Can you file an Order to Show Cause? Absolutely.
The New Jersey Courts, which are normally slow to adopt new technology, have made extraordinary and unprecedented efforts to ensure that hearings can be conducted by telephone or videoconference. In fact, on April 24, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court stated as follows: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, most court operations have continued remotely in all levels of the court system. Since transitioning to virtual operations, the courts have conducted more than 12,000 remote court events involving more than 80,000 participants.”
Moreover, the Courts have adopted a completely new electronic document submission system known as the Judiciary Electronic Document Submission system (or “JEDS”). The JEDS system is available to attorneys and members of the public, and you can obtain more information on the official New Jersey Courts website here: JEDS User Guide.
In-person trials are the one area of family law for which novel coronavirus has presented a significant problem. Nevertheless, for the vast majority of divorce cases in the State of New Jersey, a trial will never be required. It is often said that 98% of divorce cases will settle. The accuracy of that figure can be debated, but virtually all divorce attorneys acknowledge that the percentage of cases that will resolve by settlement agreement is extremely high. Moreover, some trials are being conducted by videoconference, even over the objection of the parties or their attorneys. In a notice to the bar dated April 20, 2020, the Supreme Court “reinforce[d] that most court events that can be conducted using video or phone options will proceed, even over the objection of an attorney or party.”
You can access a complete and up-to-date list of press releases, notices to the bar, and New Jersey Supreme Court orders related to COVID-19 through the following link: New Jersey Courts: COVID-19 Update. According to the most recent omnibus order, the New Jersey Supreme Court has scheduled the rollback of extensions and other measures related to novel coronavirus. For example, the Supreme Court ordered that “[t]he extension of discovery deadlines … will conclude as of May 10, 2020, except that deadlines for discovery involving experts will be extended through May 31, 2020. Further extensions of discovery deadlines may be requested based on the specific circumstances of a case.” Additionally, the Court ordered that, “[e]ffective April 27, 2020, Matrimonial ESP sessions will resume, with participation in any session to be by video and/or telephone conference and initiated by a panelist, as detailed in the April 22, 2020 notice to the bar.”
If you have specific questions about how COVID-19 will impact your case, please reach out to Andrew M. Shaw, Esq. at 908 516 8689 or schedule an initial consultation here. Consultations are available via telephone or videoconference.