NJ Court’s Response to Finalizing Divorce More Efficiently Under COVID – Divorce On the Papers

As the Family Court in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey has had to adjust its policies, practice and procedure during these last few months under the shelter-in-place and shut down orders, we are starting to see practical solutions emerge.  One such example is the new directive Order out of New Jersey directing all vicinages to permit finalizing a divorce “on the papers.”  This was previously done selectively in various counties but now will be a uniform practice.

“On the papers” means that you can be granted your Final Judgement in Divorce (how your divorce becomes legally finalized) without making an in-person court appearance.  Of course, with every rule there are qualifiers and exception, and this Order has those too.  It allows only default or uncontested divorce proceedings to be resolved this way.  Meaning, if you have no response from the other side or a full agreement you can select this option.  If your case is not settled and/or is contested, this may not be a ripe option from jump.  Below is a short explanation of who can file, what must be done and how important it is to have an attorney guiding you through it all.

Who can finalize “on the papers?”

Any party seeking a divorce via default or an uncontested divorce can have their matter resolved and finalized “on the papers.  As default divorce is when the filing party has properly filed and served the complaint but the other side has failed to respond.  An uncontested divorce is when the parties have reached an agreement through attorney negotiation, mediation, litigation or some combination of all three and do not need the court to hear any pending issues or issue any orders.

What used to happen?

In counties where the parties could not file an “on the papers” final judgment, the would need to attend a final hearing presenting either their request for default or their finalized marital settlement agreement before the court.

What happens now?

Under the new directive, all of the vicinages throughout the state are required to permit parties in the above two scenarios to file for divorce “on the papers.”  This requires a formal request to have the matter processed that way, proof of service and waiver of a response from the defendant and an additional certification signed by the filing party in a default or both parties in an uncontested situation.

Another benefit to the directive is that it requires the local court to review a properly-submitted filing for disposition within five days of receipt.  This means that the court is actively working to ensure a quick turnaround and limit backlog.

Who can help?

Martine, Katz Scanlon & Schimmel can!  As one can imagine, the above process requires an experienced lawyer to ensure everything is drafted and submitted properly.  The law in the State of New Jersey if very specific and paper-work heavy.  If you would like to take advantage of resolving your divorce “on the papers” and learn more about your options and availability to do so, please contact us here.