BRUCE EVAN CHASE, ESQ.
Bergen County Bar Association
Co-Chair, Family Law Committee

On December 10, 2021, Judge Melchionne agreed to meet with me and to provide an update of certain information important to the Family Part and the practicing Bar.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MATTERS
First appearances continue to be conducted via Zoom platform. However, all other proceedings are now being conducted “live” in the courthouse. The change from “Zoom” proceedings was in part a reaction to litigants participating in online, video proceedings while in a car, in a bathroom, and in a coffee shop!

To deal with the domestic violence backlog, in addition to Judge Antoniewicz and Judge Janeczko regularly assigned to FV, Judge Francois has a domestic violence additional assignment one day per week. The FM Judges were enlisted to assist by covering FV calendars as needed and maintaining the cases they are assigned. Read More

In light of the current COVID-19 surge and consistent with COVID-19 public health recommendations, the Judiciary will reduce on-site presence of judges and staff for the first two weeks of January 2022. As we monitor and assess the changing COVID-19 conditions, we currently plan to resume regular on-site presence as of Monday, January 17, 2022.

During this period, notwithstanding the reduced on-site presence, all state court locations will continue to be fully open to the public and all judicial operations will continue uninterrupted. State court judges and court staff will support all essential functions and conduct emergent matters. In-person trials already in progress may continue. Virtual jury selection and virtual trials will continue but jurors will not report in-person for new trials until after January 17. Certain in-person court events will also proceed as scheduled. The Presiding Judge for Administration of the Appellate Division, Vicinage Assignment Judges, and the Presiding Judge of the Tax Court will provide judges with more detailed guidance as to ongoing and scheduled in-person court events during this time.

Managers will provide further direction regarding work requirements, including as to employee requirements to report on-site to court locations during this time.

Everyone is reminded of the importance of following the masking and social distancing requirements when working in on-site locations. Care should also be taken when working remotely and outside of work.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week issued revised isolation and quarantine recommendations. In light of those recommendations, the Judiciary is in the process of revising certain COVID-19 policies so as to reduce the time for exclusion from work of employees who have tested positive, been diagnosed, developed symptoms, or have been exposed to the virus. Further details will be provided.

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner

Administrative Director Glenn A. Grant

 

On October 4, 2021, the Bergen Family Division will continue with a gradual expansion of scheduled in-person events for Domestic Violence Cases. First appearances will continue on a remote basis, thereafter, all subsequent scheduled hearings will be conducted on-site and in-person. Parties wishing to dismiss their matter in advance of a scheduled hearing may contact the Domestic Violence Unit to request a remote hearing. Attorneys and litigants with concerns or considerations are directed to contact the respective Judge handling the matter. Read More

By Bruce E. Chase, Esq.,                                                                                                                                                    Co-Chair, Family Law Committee

All of us have had to provide our medical history to our doctors.  Amongst the questions, “Do you smoke?  Do you drink?  If so, how much/how often?  What do you drink?”  Next comes the question that leads to this short article, “Do you use recreational drugs/substances?”  Should this same question now become an essential part of our divorce, custody and parenting time initial consultation?

As you will soon come to know, the answer is a resounding YES!

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State Court Locations Fully Open as of August 2, 2021

All state court locations will reopen to the public as of August 2, 2021, thus concluding the temporary restrictions on public access to the courthouses implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of that August 2, 2021 date, individuals may be present in court locations regardless of their involvement in a scheduled court proceeding and without the need for an appointment.

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COVID-19 trends throughout New Jersey are improving, as reflected in the latest COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) report posted by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJ DOH). Appropriate public health precautions still remain important, however, especially in indoor locations where individuals are summoned to be present as compared to other public and private places that they choose to visit.

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The New Jersey courts are committed to continuing court operations during and after the COVID-19 public health pandemic emergency. To that end, by Orders dated March 27, 2020, April 24, 2020 and further clarified by the May 15, 2020 Order, the Supreme Court permitted electronic signatures for all documents to which the seal of the court is affixed.

The initial and subsequent orders issued by the Supreme Court specifically includes Judgements of Divorce and Qualified Domestic Relations Orders. The Bergen Family Division is guided by these Orders and is following direction by the Superior Court Clerk’s Office to utilize electronic signatures and seals for family documents.

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COVID-19 trends throughout New Jersey are encouraging, making it possible for the Judiciary to continue to increase on-site presence of Superior and Municipal Court judges and state court employees in court locations. That larger percentage of judges and employees will support more in-person court events and expanded availability of in-person court services. At the same time, the Judiciary will continue to provide remote options, both for court services and for those court proceedings that can be effectively conducted in a remote format. As we have throughout COVID-19, the Judiciary will continue to prioritize the health and safety of all court users.

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The Supreme Court has approved a Background Screening Policy for Proposed Guardians of Incapacitated Adults (the “policy”). This directive promulgates that new policy and related new and revised court forms. It also provides guidance for use of the new policy, which will apply to guardians in matters filed on or after May 15, 2021.

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