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Family Law Alert: NJ Supreme Court Modified Court Rules and Procedures

March 30, 2020
By David S. Carton and Lynne Strober

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, the New Jersey Supreme Court has entered an Order substantially modifying our Court Rules and Procedures. We will continue to stay on top of any changes, but we thought the portions that apply to the Family Part would be of interest to you. They are as follows:

(1) FAMILY

a. The provisions of the March 17, 2020 Order are affirmed, and Rule 5:5-l(e) is relaxed and supplemented to permit the additional extension of discovery deadlines through April 26, 2020;

b.
The time periods for dismissal of family cases for lack of prosecution will be tolled for the period from March 16 through April 26, 2020; and in addition, automated lack of prosecution dismissal processes for family matters will be suspended through April 26, 2020;

c.
The provisions of the March 19, 2020 Order regarding Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (ESP) sessions are extended as follows:

i. Matrimonial ESP sessions scheduled from March 16 to April 10, 2020 have been postponed, and Matrimonial ESP sessions scheduled from April 11 to April 26, 2020 will also be rescheduled;

ii.
Effective April 27, 2020, Matrimonial ESP sessions will resume, with participation in any session to be via video and/or telephone conference and initiated by an arbitrator or panelist. Designated court staff will resolve any scheduling issues and will provide assistance as necessary to facilitate the process. Any participant may apply to the court for extension of deadlines or rescheduling of sessions as may be required based on the circumstances of an individual case, including but not limited to barriers to participation by video or phone conferencing; and

iii.
The provisions of Rules 5:5-5 and 5:5-6 are relaxed and supplemented: (i) to permit the extension of ESP time frames, (ii) to allow submissions to be sent directly to the panelists, (iii) to authorize these proceedings to be conducted in a location other than the courthouse, and (iv) to allow post-ESP events to proceed without the simultaneous entry of an court order; and

(2) ALL COURTS

a. To the extent practicable through April 26, 2020, depositions should be conducted remotely using necessary and available video technology, and in those circumstances court reporters may administer and accept oaths remotely;

b.
To the extent practicable, all court matters including hearings, conferences, and arguments, will be conducted by video or phone conferencing, and in-person appearances will be permitted only in emergency situations;

c.
As provided in the March 25, 2020 Order, which remains in full force and effect, all depositions and appearances for any doctors, nurses, or healthcare professionals involved in responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency are suspended through April 26, 2020, except for appearances and depositions (i) that are requested by the doctor, nurse, or healthcare professional; or (ii) that are for matters related to COVID-19;

d.
In the computation of time periods under the Rules of Court and under any statute of limitations for matters in all courts, for purposes of filing deadlines, the additional period from March 28 through April 26, 2020 shall be deemed the same as a legal holiday, thus extending the tolling established by the March 17 Order; and

(3) ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES

a. The provisions of Rule 1 :32-2A(c) and all other Court Rules requiring original signatures on filings are relaxed and supplemented so as to permit electronic signatures to be used in all filing processes temporarily authorized to be used during the COVID-19 crisis, including but not limited to emergent applications submitted by email and hardcopy submissions in dockets without an approved electronic filing system, as well as in disciplinary and fee arbitration matters, applications for admission to the bar.

 

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