There are many things that have to happen to file a successful motion in New Jersey Family Court. There are the numerous required documents, which will vary depending on the type of motion and the stage of the case, as well as the inclusion of facts that will provide the court with the basis for granting the motion. The question many people ask is whether they need an attorney to do this or if they can petition the courts on their own. The fact is that a person can avail him or herself of the benefits of the family court without a lawyer, but an experienced attorney will make the process much easier and likely will lead to better results.
A person can bring a pro se action in New Jersey, but the requirements for what needs to be included in the filing do not change. There will need to be an initial filing in order to open a case file and receive a docket number. This is critical because nothing will be done with a motion filing if there is no assigned number. If the family court action is a divorce filing, the plaintiff (the one initiating the action) will file a Complaint for Divorce, along with several other supporting documents. Once these have been served on the defendant, the case will proceed through the court system until there is a settlement between the parties or the court rules on all of the open matters. Once the plaintiff has commenced the action against the defendant, he or she may file motions to address specific issues. For example, a motion (or application) may be filed to increase the amount of pendente lite (temporary support) because of a change in circumstances. In filing the motion, you will need to include:
1. Case Information Sheet – This form will have to be submitted at the beginning of the action and updated as necessary. It provides information about the parties to the legal case, any minor children, income, property, employment history, debts and liabilities, and other pertinent details. Supporting documents need to be filed with this form.
2. Notice of Motion – This sets forth the relief that is being requested from the court and the date that the motion will be presented;
3. Certification in Support of Motion – A certification is the opportunity to tell your story. You need to set forth all of the facts that show the court that the relief being sought is reasonable and should be granted. Each element of requested relief needs to be addressed and the certification is signed by the filing party;
4. Proposed Order – You are providing this as a tool for the judge to provide the relief requested. Frequently, the judge will mark up the proposed order to reflect the judge’s modifications;
5. Notice to Litigants – This is a pro forma statement included with the Notice of Motion about how responses to the motion must be submitted in order to be heard by the court;
6. Certification of Filing and Service – Included with the Notice of Motion, this certifies that the motion has been filed and that the defendant (or plaintiff if it is the defendant filing the motion) has been sent a copy of the documents. Service of a motion often is done through certified mail;
7. Letter to the Clerk of the Superior Court – This is the cover letter to the motion package and should reference the case name, docket number, assigned judge, purpose of the motion, and requested relief; and
8. Confidential Litigant Information Statement. The court rules were amended recently to require this document be filed with every pleading. It seeks factual and descriptive information to help the court identify the parties. You do not send a copy of this document to the other party; only to the court.
Although a party can represent himself, family court matters often involve strong emotions and contentious issues. An experienced family law attorney can make the process a smooth one, easing the burden and increasing the rate of success on important issues. This also ensures that none of the critical documents are omitted in the filing process.