Family Division Overview
Overview of the Family Practice Division
The Family Practice Division is part of the Trial Court Services Division of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), New Jersey Judiciary. The primary function of this division is development and implementation of policy, procedures and best practice in the vicinages and the support of state-level committees to advance this process. Approximately 400,000 family related cases such as divorce, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, child support, foster-care placements, adoption, custody and visitation, kinship guardianship, and termination of parental rights are heard in the vicinage family divisions. The Family Practice Division coordinates a number of volunteer programs which allow citizen input into the Judiciary programs. Listed are some of the areas of focus, which are initiated and staffed through the many committees in the Family Practice Division of the AOC.
The Family Practice Division is staffed by attorneys, professionals and support persons, who respond to written and telephone inquiries from individuals, both in and out of state. Family staff is not permitted to represent litigants or legally advise them. They do, however, assist individuals who need guidance as to what procedural options may be available to them. Also, they answer questions of policy that may assist the litigant in better understanding the family court process.
The statistical unit was created in 1989. An electronic data system called the Family Automated Case Tracking System (FACTS) was developed to assist counties in case tracking and case management. It also provides statistical reports as well as court calendars, subpoenas, warrants and court appearance notices. The Research/Statistics unit produces reports using the data contained in FACTS to conduct research to improve case processing, evaluate existing court programs and monitor compliance with established best practices.
Supreme Court Committees
The State Domestic Violence Working Group advises the New Jersey Supreme Court concerning systemic issues facing the courts in the area of domestic violence. The group is chaired by an Assignment Judge. Membership includes: a Family Part Presiding Judge, Family Part Judges, Municipal Court Presiding Judge, Municipal Court Judges, Chair of the Conference of Criminal Presiding Judges, a member of the New Jersey Assembly, liaisons from the Division of Youth and Family Services, the Division on Women, the New Jersey Coalition of Battered Women, the Prosecutors Association, Chiefs of Police Association, Office of the Attorney General, representatives from various bar associations, private attorneys, clinicians and a domestic violence hearing officer. The Family Practice Committee provides the Supreme Court with recommendations concerning the Rules of Court and other issues that relate to the practice of family law.
Juvenile Conference Committees
The Family Practice Division coordinates the Juvenile Conference Committee program in all 21 counties. Juvenile Conference Committees (JCCs) are 6 to 9 member panels of trained volunteers who hear the cases of minor juvenile offenders. The Guide for Juvenile Conference Committees which is approved by the Supreme Court is produced and distributed by the Family Practice Division.
Over 2,300 volunteers handle more than 10,000 juvenile delinquency cases each year through this program.
Children In Court
Child Placement Review
CPR Advisory Council
New Jersey established Child Placement Review (CPR) Boards in 1978 to assist the court and the Division of Youth and Family Services for children who have been placed in foster care. Child Placement Review Boards consist of court-appointed trained volunteers who monitor the cases of all children who are placed outside their homes by the Division of Youth and Family Services. Vicinage Family Division staff is responsible for training county child placement review staff and volunteers and to facilitate meetings of the Board. The Family Practice Division staffs the CPR Advisory Council which, through its annual report, reports on the status of the CPR system and advises and makes recommendations to the Supreme Court, Legislature and Governor’s Office. It represents approximately 73 boards throughout the State.
Supervised Visitation Program
The Family Practice Division is responsible for a statewide coordinator of the Supervised Visitation Program. This program involves community volunteers and the facilities of local organizations which are made available to assist in court ordered parental visitation with children in a supervised setting. The volunteer is responsible for monitoring visits and preparing reports for the Court.
Family Crisis Intervention Units (FCIUs)
The Family Practice Division is responsible for coordinating the efforts of the Family Crisis Intervention Units throughout the State. FCIUs are responsible for handling non-complaint related juvenile/family related crises.
|Conference of Family Presiding Judges||Conference of Family Division Managers|
|Family Practice Committee||State Domestic Violence Working Group|
|Recent Development in Family Law Committee||Supreme Court Committee on Complementary Dispute Resolution/Family Programs Subcommittee|
|Judicial Education Committee||Child Placement Review Advisory Council|
|Child Placement Review Coordinators Committee||Juvenile Conference Committee Coordinators|
|New Jersey Children in Court Improvement Committee||Supervised Visitation Coordinators Committee|
|Team Leaders for Each Family Docket Type||FV/FO – FJ/FF – FD/FM – CIC|
|Child Support Hearing Officer Program||Court Improvement Grant|
|Access/Visitation Program||Domestic Violence Technical Assistance Team|
|Kinship Legal Guardianship||
Child Support Hearing Officer Program
The Child Support Hearing Officer Program was developed to provide quick and expedited process for those seeking to have child support issues decided by the court. Child Support Hearing Officers are assigned to all 21 counties by the Administrative Office of the Courts and hear matters concerning the establishment, modification, and enforcement of child support. Parties that disagree with a child support hearing officer’s decision, have the right to have the matter heard before a judge. Otherwise, the Hearing Officer’s recommendation is signed by a judge, becoming an order of the court.
Best Practices and Standards
The Family Practice Division supports the State Judiciary’s efforts to identify and promulgate Standards and Best Practices. To further this effort, the Family Practice Division staffs the Conferences of Family Division Presiding Judges, Division Managers and the docket specific sub-committees of the conferences. The Family Practice Division plans and implements the training of staff and the development and distribution of manuals and case processing policies. The Family Practice Division works with the Judiciary’s legislative liaison to provide the legislature with information concerning the implementation of proposed legislation. The design and implementation of new legislative and policy initiatives is coordinated with the Conference of Presiding Judges and Family Division Managers.