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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Summons, Complaint & Answer in family cases

Summons, Complaint & Answer in family cases

Family cases and divorce cases in New Jersey are governed by the Court Rules set up by the NJ Supreme Court. An attorney involved in divorce and family cases needs to be aware of the current rules.
The following is a portion of the NJ Court Rules which apply to all family cases:


5:4-1. Process

(a) Summons Generally. Except as otherwise provided by these rules with respect to a specific family action and except as otherwise provided by paragraph (b) of this rule, the summons in all civil family actions shall be in the form prescribed by R. 4:4-2 and shall be served in accordance with R. 4:4.

(b) Summons, Summary Family Actions. In every family action required or permitted by law or rule to proceed summarily, a summons shall issue either in addition to or in lieu of an order to show cause. The summons shall comply with the requirements of R. 4:4-2 except that in lieu of requiring an answer it shall notify the defendant to appear at the time, date and place therein set forth to answer the complaint, a copy of which shall be annexed thereto. It shall also notify the defendant that unless the defendant appears at the date, time and place set forth an order may be entered by default and, if appropriate, that a warrant may issue to compel the defendant's appearance. The summons shall be served in accordance with R. 4:4.

(c) Warrant. In criminal and quasi-criminal actions, the provisions of R. 3:3 insofar as applicable shall apply. A warrant may also issue where provided by rule or otherwise appropriate to compel appearance.

5:4-2. Complaint

(a) Complaint Generally

(1) Caption. All family actions shall be captioned in the Chancery Division-Family Part.

(2) Contents. Every complaint in a family part action, in addition to the special requirements prescribed by these rules for specific family actions shall also include a statement of the essential facts constituting the basis of the relief sought, the stature or statutes, if any, relied on by the plaintiff, the street address or, if none, the post office address of each party, or a statement that such address is not known; a statement of any previous family actions between the parties; and, if not otherwise stated, the facts upon which venue is based.

In any action involving the welfare or status of a child, the complaint shall include the child's name, address, the date of birth, and a statement of where and with whom the child resides.

In any non-dissolution action involving the support of a child in which paternity was previously acknowledged by the parents, a copy of the Certificate of Parentage or other written acknowledgment of paternity shall be filed with the complaint for support.

(b) Corespondent.

(1) Identification of Corespondent. In family actions in which adultery or deviant sexual conduct is charged, the pleading so charging shall state the name of the person with whom such conduct was committed, if known, and if not known, shall state any available information tending to describe the said person, and shall also state such designation of the time, place and circumstances under which the act or series of acts were committed as will enable the party charged therewith and the court to distinguish the particular offense or offenses intended to be charged. If it is stated that the name is unknown, it must be shown at the hearing that it was not known at the time of the filing of the pleading containing the charge.

(2) Notice to Corespondent. A person named as a corespondent in any pleading seeking or resisting relief on the ground of adultery or deviant sexual conduct shall, within 30 days after filing of such a pleading, be served by the party making the charge, either personally or by registered or certified mail to the corespondent's last-known address, return receipt requested, or, if the corespondent refuses to claim or to accept delivery, by ordinary mail, with a copy of such pleading and a written notice of the pendency of the action, of the charge, and of the right to intervene in accordance with R. 4:33. If the name and address of the corespondent are discovered thereafter and before the trial, the party making the charge shall give such notice forthwith. If the name and address of the corespondent appear at the trial, and such notice has not been given, an adjournment may be ordered and such notice given. An affidavit of compliance with the requirements of this rule shall be filed.

(c) Affidavit of Verification and Non-collusion. There shall be annexed to every complaint or counterclaim for divorce or nullity of marriage an oath or affirmation by the plaintiff or counter claimant that the allegations of the complaint or counterclaim are true to the best of the party's knowledge, information and belief, and that the pleading is made in truth and good faith and without collusion for the causes set forth therein.

(d) Counterclaim. A counterclaim may state any family cause of action, and any other cause or causes of action which exist at the time of service of the counterclaim. A counterclaim not stated in an answer may be filed by leave of the court at any time prior to final judgment. Failure to counterclaim for divorce or nullity of marriage shall not bar such cause of action. In any action involving the welfare or status of a child the counterclaim shall include the child's name, address, date of birth and a statement of where and with whom the child resides.

(e) Amended or Supplemental Complaint or Counterclaim. In any action for divorce, nullity of marriage, or separate maintenance, a supplemental complaint or counterclaim may be allowed to set forth a cause of action which has arisen or become known since the filing of the original complaint, and an amended complaint or counterclaim may be allowed to change the action from separate maintenance, absolute divorce or divorce from bed and board to any other one of said actions.

(f) Affidavit or Certification of Insurance Coverage. The first pleading of each party shall have annexed thereto an affidavit listing all known insurance coverage of the parties and their minor children, including but not limited to life, health, automobile, and homeowner's insurance. The affidavit shall specify the name of the insurance company, the policy number, the named insured and, if applicable, other persons covered by the policy; a description of the coverage including the policy term, if applicable; and in the case of life insurance, an identification of the named beneficiaries. The affidavit shall also specify whether any insurance coverage was canceled or modified within the ninety days preceding its date and, if so, a description of the canceled insurance coverage. Insurance coverage identified in the affidavit shall be maintained pending further order of the court. If, however, the only relief sought is dissolution of the marriage or if a property settlement agreement addressing insurance coverage has already been reached, the parties shall annex to their pleadings, in lieu of the required insurance affidavit, an affidavit so stating. Nevertheless, if a responding party seeks financial relief, the responding party shall annex an insurance-coverage affidavit to the responsive pleading and the adverse party shall serve and file an insurance-coverage affidavit within 20 days after service of the responsive pleading. A certification in lieu of affidavit may be filed.

5:4-3. Answer, Acknowledgment, Appearance

(a) Generally. Except as otherwise provided by paragraph (b) hereof or by any other rule or statute, a defendant in a family action shall file an answer in accordance with R. 4:5-3 or a general appearance and, without filing an answer, be heard on issues of custody of children, parenting time or visitation, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, counsel fees and other issues incidental to the proceeding. A defendant may also file an acknowledgment of service in accordance with R. 4:4-6.

(b) Summary Actions. In summary family actions in which the process fixes a return day, the defendant need not file an answer, appearance or acknowledgment in order to be heard if the defendant appears on the return day.

Conclusion If involved in family court matters, immediately schedule an in-office appointment with an experienced attorney. Don't rely on a real estate attorney, or a family member who simply attended law school. When your future is on the line, hire a knowledgeable attorney.

The above information is a brief outline of Court Rules an attorney will review in applicable Family cases. If Kenneth Vercammen's office is unable to handle a case because it is outside our area, we often can refer individuals to experienced attorneys you can consult.

KENNETH VERCAMMEN & ASSOCIATES, PC ATTORNEY AT LAW 2053 Woodbridge Ave. Edison, NJ 08817 (Phone) 732-572-0500 (Fax) 732-572-0030

TRIAL AND LITIGATION EXPERIENCE In his private practice, he has devoted a substantial portion of his professional time to the preparation and trial of litigated matters. He appears in Courts throughout New Jersey several times each week on many personal injury matters, Criminal and Municipal/ traffic Court trials, Probate hearings, and contested administrative law hearings.

Mr. Vercammen served as the Prosecutor for the Township of Cranbury, Middlesex County and was involved in trials on a weekly basis. He also argued all pre-trial motions and post-trial applications on behalf of the State of New Jersey.

He has also served as a Special Acting Prosecutor in Woodbridge, Perth Amboy, Berkeley Heights, Carteret, East Brunswick, Jamesburg, South Brunswick, South River and South Plainfield for conflict cases. Since 1989, he has personally handled hundreds of criminal and motor vehicle matters as a Prosecutor and now as defense counsel and has had substantial success.

Previously, Mr. Vercammen was Public Defender for the Township of Edison and Borough of Metuchen and a Designated Counsel for the Middlesex County Public Defender's Office. He represented indigent individuals facing consequences of magnitude. He was in Court trying cases and making motions in difficult criminal and DWI matters. Every case he personally handled and prepared.

His resume sets forth the numerous bar associations and activities which demonstrate his commitment to the legal profession and providing quality representation to clients.

Since 1985, his primary concentration has been on litigation matters. Mr. Vercammen gained other legal experiences as the Confidential Law Clerk to the Court of Appeals of Maryland (Supreme Court) with the Delaware County, PA District Attorney Office handling Probable Cause Hearings, Middlesex County Probation Department as a Probation Officer, and an Executive Assistant to Scranton District Magistrate, Thomas Hart, in Scranton, PA.

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