What Are New Jersey Family Court Records?
New Jersey Family Court records are the official documents of trials and hearings handled by New Jersey Family Courts. These records include case files, dockets, orders, and judgments of these courts. The public can find these records at local courthouses and online on the official websites of New Jersey Courts and third party websites.
What Is a Family Court in New Jersey?
A New Jersey Family Court is a Family Division of the Superior Court. This court is responsible for handling cases involving family matters and domestic relations issues. The jurisdiction of the New Jersey Family Court includes:
- Child and spousal support
- Child custody
- Domestic violence
- Juvenile delinquency
- Foster care
- Child, spousal, and elder abuse and neglect
How to Serve Family Court Papers in New Jersey
After initiating a court action in a New Jersey Family Court, everyone named as respondents must be served with initial court papers. Examples of court papers that must be served before the commencement of trial are citations and petitions as well as forms attached to these documents. The four acceptable ways of serving Family Court papers in New Jersey are:
- Personal Service
- Service by Certified or Registered Mail
- Substituted Service by Court Order
- Service by Publication
Personal Service is the fastest and reliable method of serving court papers in New Jersey. This method involves hand-delivering the papers to respondents/defendants. New Jersey does not allow the party initiating court actions to serve initial court papers themselves. Approved servers must not be involved in the case or related to any of the parties. The suing party may contract this task to a Sheriff or a Private Professional Server. The selected server must then complete a Return of Service form provide details of time and location of service. The party initiating the court action must then file this form with the court.
Service by Posting involves sending initial court papers to respondents by certified or registered mail. When using this method, respondents must send signed return receipts to confirm they received the papers. This receipt must be filed with the court along with a Return of Service form.
Before delivering court papers using Substituted Service, a petitioner must first ask the court for this option by filing a Motion for Substituted Service. After demonstrating that the respondent lives at the address indicated but fails to accept served paper, they will obtain a court order authorizing Substituted Service. This allows the server to leave copies of initial court papers with anyone at a location where the respondent is certain to visit as long as they are over the age of 14.
Service by Publication must also be approved by the court. The party initiating the court action must prove to a New Jersey Family Court that they diligently tried, but failed, to serve the court papers. If the respondent’s address is unknown, the court may allow the papers to be published in newspapers circulating in an area where the recipient is known to live or work.
What Is Contempt of Court in Family Law in New Jersey?
Most cases of contempt of Family Court in New Jersey involve one or more parties not following orders given by the judge or deviating from the terms of an agreement or vedict. In New Jersey, the court punishes contempt with fines, seizure of property and/or jail time. Before ruling on contempt of court, one party must petition the court about the non-compliant conducts of the other party. The court must also be convinced that the other party knows and understands the order, agreement, or verdict in question and willfully refuse to follow it. The severity of the punishment handed out depends on the circumstances of the contempt.
Examples of actions that can be ruled contempt of Family Court in New Jersey include:
- Failure to pay agreed child/pousal support
- Failure to abide by the terms of child custody agreement
- Refusal to transfer an ex-spouse property as instructed by the court
- Unseemly conduct in court
Are Family Court Records Public in New Jersey?
Yes. New Jersey makes Family Court records publicly available unless sealed by court order. While the public can freely inspect details of ongoing and concluded family law cases, some records are restricted. Family Court records exempt for public review and kept private include:
- Health and financial records Information Statements
- Private marital settle agreements
- Expunged Juvenile Records
- Domestic violence records that could be harmful if released
- Child custody evaluations
- Adoption and paternity records
Are New Jersey Divorce Records Sealed or Public Records?
Divorce records are publicly accessible in New Jersey unless sealed by a Family Court judge. In addition to the final judgement of divorce cases, New Jersey law provides public access to documents providing details of all hearings, arraignments, sentencing, and appeal of divorce cases. Anyone can also attend a divorce case proceedings in New Jersey.
Parties to a divorce may petition the court to seal all or some of the records in their divorce case. Family Court judges must weigh the need for privacy against the public’s rights to open records when ruling whether to seal divorce records or keep them as public records.
How Do I Find Divorce Records in New Jersey?
To obtain copies of divorce records, contact the Family Court in the county where the divorce was finalized. Check the website of the county’s Superior Court to find the address and phone number of the Family Division. Only divorce records from 1992 to the present are available from New Jersey Family Courts. Records of divorces finalized between 1901 and 1992 are available from the New Jersey Superior Court Public Information Center. For older records, visit the New Jersey State Archives.
Members of the public searching for divorce court records must provide the following information:
- Names of the parties involved in the divorce
- Date of divorce
- Docket number
- Location of Family Court where the divorce was finalized
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.
How to Access Family Law Cases in New Jersey
The Office of the New Jersey Superior Court Clerk provides access to family law cases in the state. It offers electronic access to these records and accepts requests for copies. This office manages the New Jersey’s Family Automated Case Tracking System (FACTS) portal and provide electronic access to divorce records. To access ongoing and concluded family law cases, contact the local courthouse where the case was filed.
Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How to Request Family Court Records in New Jersey
New Jersey Family Courts accepts requests for court records in person, by mail, and by email. It provides plain, certified, exemplified, and triple exemplified copies of these records upon request. To request a Family Court records, download and complete the Records Request Form. Submit it to the Superior Corut Clerk’s Office at the courthouse where the case was heard. You can also mail the completed form to the court’s address. Alternatively, send it by email to Scco.Mailbox@njcourts.gov. Make sure to include the right copy fee with your request.