Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

What Can I do if I Disagree with a New Jersey Divorce Court Order?

After nearly 20 years as a New Jersey divorce attorney, I can assure everyone that “motion practice” is an essential aspect of a New Jersey divorce. As a New Jersey family lawyer for nearly 20 years, I have had occasional client who is unhappy with the court order that was ultimately generated as a result of a motion.

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At times, the order actually is legally “correct,” but with emotions running so high, this party is not satisfied. On the other hand, many times the court’s reasoning is incorrect.

Over the years I have had many clients ask me, “What can be done about this?” The short answer is to file a Motion for Reconsideration. Then, I advise my client that this is much more difficult than it sounds. Why? Let’s explore.

I first explain that, pursuant to the relevant New Jersey court rule, we only have 20 days from the date after the litigant who filed the initial motion has served the order upon all parties. While 20 days may not sound too bad, I assure you that it is not very much time to make such a difficult legal decision. What makes this decision so difficult? Let’s explore further.

Second, the likelihood of success for a Motion for Reconsideration is dramatically limited. The court order will only be changed if the judge of the New Jersey Family Court believes that they did not fully recognize the weight of important or “probative” evidence. Another reason for a judge to reconsider their original order is if the rational behind their decision was obviously incorrect or irrationally based. So what is so difficult about that? Let’s keep exploring.

A Motion for Reconsideration must clearly and specially discuss the foundation on which the Court made it’s ruling. Furthermore, the moving party must show the judge how certain essential facts and the relevant New Jersey divorce law was “overlooked” or “erroneously” applied when rendering its’ decision. Now we see how difficult this is becoming. In plain language, a litigant who files a Motion for Reconsideration is essentially telling the judge that they made a big mistake, here is what the court did wrong and I want you to change your mind and correct yourself. Needless to add, even the fairest judges rarely like reading about how and why they were wrong.

It is also very important to keep in mind that judges are hesitant to allow parties to have a “second bite at the apple” just because they are unhappy with the result of the original motion. A tricky one I have found is explaining to my client that we are not allowed to ask the court to consider facts that were not contained (or could have been included in) the initial motion.

Finally, as a New Jersey divorce lawyer, I always give my client’s cost-effective advice. Therefore, unless I feel we have a truly solid chance, I will advise my client against filing the Motion for Reconsideration and instead focus on how we can make things better moving forward. If you or a loved one has received a New Jersey family court order and do not believe that is fair, please contact my office to discuss your options.