Effective on September 1, 2017, there are numerous changes to the Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey that specifically affect Matrimonial Law cases. Particularly, the Rules in Part 5 are directly concerning Matrimonial Law.
The first rule change is regarding an application for Attorney Fees in Civil Family Actions (R. 5:3-5). The pertinent section regarding Attorney’s fees, Rule 5:3-5(c), has been amended to include the following language (new language has been underlined):
Subject to the provisions of R. 4:42-9(b), (c), and (d), the court in its discretion may make an allowance, both pendente lite and on final determination, to be paid by any party to the action, including, if deemed to be just, any party successful in the action, on any claim for divorce, dissolution of civil union, termination of domestic partnership, nullity, support, alimony, custody, parenting time, equitable distribution, separate maintenance, enforcement of agreements between spouses, domestic partners, or civil union partners and claims relating to family type matters. All applications or motions seeking an award of attorney fees shall include an affidavit of services at the time of initial filing, as required by paragraph (d) of this rule.…
The rule regarding motions to be relieved as counsel has also been revised. Previously, the Court would hear motions to be relieved as counsel within the same oral arguments as the rest of the relief sought in the motion/cross motion. However, the Court found this to be inequitable to both the Client and the Attorney involved. The new rule is as follows (R. 5:3-5(e)(3)):
(3) Upon the filing of a motion or cross-motion to be relieved as counsel, the court, absent good cause, shall sever all other relief sought by the motion or cross-motion from the motion to be relieved as counsel. The court shall first decide the motion to be relieved and, in the order either granting or denying the motion to be relieved, shall include a scheduling order for the filing of responsive pleadings and the return date for all other relief sought in the motion or cross-motion.
Now, as can be seen from the Rule change, the motion to be relieved will be heard independently of the rest of the motion/cross-motion relief. This allows for the issues to be properly addressed after determining whether an attorney will be allowed to exit the case.
In addition to the above, a new rule, R. 5:4-5, has been added, which prescribes specific time limits on filing a Summons during divorce matters.
Plaintiff shall cause a summons to issue within sixty (60) days after the filing of a dissolution complaint. Should plaintiff fail to issue a summons within sixty (60) days from the date of the filing of a dissolution complaint, defendant may seek dismissal of the complaint or such other relief as is just and equitable. Such dismissal shall be without prejudice unless otherwise specified in the order.
The Court Rules now also codify the modifications to Child Support that came into effect in February 2017 in the State of New Jersey. These rule changes drastically alter the landscape of child support cases in the State of New Jersey and are retroactive, meaning they effect active child support cases. Rule 5:6-9, which is a brand-new rule, calls for child support to be terminated by operation of law when the child being supported: (1) dies, (2) marries, (3) enters the military service, or (4) reaches 19 years of age, except as otherwise provided within the rule. In no case shall a child support obligation extend beyond the date the child reaches the age of 23. It is now the burden of the party receiving child support to show the court why child support should continue past the age of 19. Some reasons given by the Rule are: A) is still enrolled in high school or other secondary educational program; (B) is enrolled full-time in a post-secondary educational program; or (C) has a physical or mental disability as determined by a federal or state agency that existed prior to the child reaching the age of 19 and requires continued support. The full rule can be found on the New Jersey Court’s website.
The last rule change that will affect all divorce cases is Rule 5:8-5. This rule discusses Custody and Parenting Time / Visitation Plans within a divorce action. The rule change now requires that the Custody and Parenting time/Visitation Plan shall be filed no later than seventy-five (75) days after the last responsive pleading is filed. If, however, mediation, as permitted by R. 1:40-5(a) is conducted, the Custody and Parenting Time/Visitation Plan shall be filed no later than 14 days following an unsuccessful mediation.