The Passaic Vicinage Family Division, located at 401 Grand Street in Paterson, occupies the 8th and 9th floors of the Passaic County Administration building.
The Family Court has jurisdiction over matters involving child support, child custody, visitation, divorce proceedings, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence, family crisis intervention, child placement, child abuse, and neglect.
Family Court's operations involve the following case types:
The Family Court from the police departments through the Prosecutor's Office receives juvenile complaints. Once received, complaints are docketed and screened.
Depending on the seriousness of the complaint, the age of the juvenile, and the juvenile's court history, the complaint is heard by one of the following:
Both the ISC and JCC programs are diversion programs authorized to hear less serious offenses than those requiring a formal court hearing.
JUVENILE CONFERENCE COMMITTEES are authorized under N.J.S.A. 2A: 4A-75 and R. 5:25. The JCC Coordinator organizes the training of volunteers and the screening of appropriate juvenile cases to be heard by the JCCs and ISC. Generally, first time juvenile offenders with minor charges are referred to the JCC.
Juvenile conference committees are six to nine member panels of trained volunteers who hear (in the community) cases involving minor juvenile offenders. Recommendations, if approved by the judge become a court order, which is monitored by the Juvenile Conference Committee.
INTAKE SERVICES CONFERENCES are also authorized under N.J.S.A. 2A: 4A-75 and R. 5:25. Juvenile cases referred to ISC generally involve repeat juvenile offenders with minor offenses or first time offenders with slightly more serious minor charges that do not require court intervention. A trained Probation Officer hears these cases and makes recommendations on the disposition of the case, which becomes a court order after court approval.
JUVENILE REFEREES serve the Superior Court Family Division pursuant to R. 5:25-2 with the approval of the Chief Justice. Unlike JCC and ISC, the Referee is empowered to determine the facts of a case and make recommendations as to the adjudication of delinquency and disposition. All recommendations are without effect unless approved by the Court and incorporated into an Order.
Appropriate case for a hearing before a Juvenile Referee include those that would ordinarily be scheduled for a counsel not mandatory or informal hearing before a Family Court Judge; petty disorderly person through fourth degree offenses; unsuccessful Intake Service Conference, unsuccessful Juvenile Conference Committee when circumstances indicate ISC would not be appropriate; repeat minor offenses involving a juvenile who has exhausted the diversionary alternatives to the Court, and violations of court orders/probation resulting from a recommendation of the Juvenile Referee or an informal hearing court disposition.
National studies have documented that alcohol and drug use among juvenile offenders is prevalent with the most commonly used drugs being marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines. Additionally, the consequences of drug use during adolescence can be significant. Drug use can have a very disruptive effect on important growth and development processes, e.g. identity formation, learning to cope with stress and challenges, understanding the cause and effect relationship between behavior and consequences, that take place during adolescence.
Juvenile justice practitioners have recognized that the traditional court processing system lacks the capacity to adequately identify juveniles who are substance abusers and to bring about any significant reduction in drug usage by juveniles. Thus, juveniles become involved in the endless cycle of street, drugs, crime, arrest, detention, court involvement and eventually back to the streets to begin the costly ritual again.
The Drug Court Program is a comprehensive strategy that links the juvenile justice and community treatment systems in order to eliminate substance abuse and criminal behavior among program participants.
The goals are for program participants to:
Through regular court appearances, the Drug Treatment Court Judge provides intensive supervision and monitoring of program participants.The Drug Treatment Court Judge holds the juveniles and their parents or guardians personally accountable for treatment progress.
To be accepted into the Drug Court Program, a juvenile must have a serious dependency on drugs or alcohol and be charged with a non-violent or drug-related offense.The juvenile may or may not have a history of other delinquency offenses. Juveniles who commit violent crimes are not permitted in the program.If a juvenile successfully completes the Drug Court Program, the complaint will be dismissed.
The role of the family is critical. Substance abuse is all too often a family matter, and to help a juvenile may necessitate dealing with substance abuse by a parent or sibling. Family members who have an alcohol or drug problem will be referred for treatment services. Additionally, parents or guardians must cooperate and become involved in the treatment process for their child. Parents and guardians must attend family therapy groups and attend court proceedings.
The Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Program has created linkages with local law enforcement agencies. Police may assist with mentoring a participant's progress in the community, schools, and with locating participants who have absconded from the program.
Incentives and sanctions are applied by the Drug Treatment Court Judge to promote each juvenile's ability to take responsibility for his or her actions.Positive rewards and incentives for compliance with program requirements are considered as important sanctions for noncompliance.
Incentives may include words of encouragement by the Drug Treatment Court Judge, certificates, special awards, decrease in treatment requirements and decrease in the number of court appearances. Sanctions may include curfew, community service on Saturdays, home confinement, extra treatment requirements or time in custody at the Juvenile Detention Center. Sanctions are imposed if a juvenile has missed a treatment session, has a positive drug test or otherwise failed to comply with program conditions.
A close working relationship is maintained with school districts that are attended by Drug Treatment Court participants. School reports are provided on a weekly basis to the Drug Treatment Court Judge and indicate the juvenile's attendance record and academic progress. If not attending school, (age 16 or above) and unable to return to school, the juvenile is required to either acquire employment or be engaged in an educational (e.g. GED) or vocational training program.
Intensive outpatient treatment and aftercare services are provided by a community treatment provider under contract with the Superior Court of New Jersey.Treatment services consist of psychosocial assessment, group counseling, individual counseling, relapse prevention and cognitive skills development.
The duration of treatment services include nine months and a three months aftercare component.
Non-Dissolution complaints deal with resolving issues pertaining to child support, spousal support, and custody, paternity and parenting time. This case type involves complaints between parties who are not involved in divorce proceedings.
Non-Dissolution complaints are heard by Superior Court Family Division Judges or diverted to the Family Division child Support Hearing Officer Program. Child support matters are diverted to the Child Support Hearing Officer Program to expedite court proceedings as well as to assist litigants to reach mutual decisions.
Non-Dissolution complaints are taken on the 8th floor, room 812 by the Family Division staff and then dispersed to the calendaring unit to schedule for court hearings.Out-of-state and out-of-county child support complaints (obligor lives out of state or county) are also taken by the Family Division staff and then mailed to the appropriate out-of-state or out-of-county jurisdiction.
The Child Support Hearing Officer Program serves the Superior Court Family Division as a compliment of services provided by the Judiciary.The Child Support Hearing Officer Program is a diversion program designed to resolve child and spousal support issues relation to paternity, establishment, modifications, enforcement as well as minimal issues relating to custody and parenting time.
All recommendations made by the Child Support Hearing Officer Program are based on the Title IV-D Guidelines, reviewed by a Superior Court Judge and incorporated into an order.
The program is a voluntary program. If a litigant is dissatisfied with a decision made by a Superior Court Judge on the same day of the hearing or can be appealed.
Non-dissolution cases (i.e. FD cases) are eligible for participation in the Famil Mediation Program only by Court Order. The same criteria and screening process utilized for dissolution cases applies to non-dissolution cases.
The Custody Mediation Program is a Complimentary Dispute Resolution program comprised of a Family Education program (a.k.a. Custody and Visitation Seminar) and Mediation pursuant to Rule 1:4-50 et. seq.. The goal of the Program is to provide a non-adversarial forum for direct communication between the parties to resolve custody and visitation issues, with the aid of a trained mediator, thereby reducing bench time in litigating these issues. Participation in both the Custody and Visitation Seminar and Mediation is mandatory for dissolution cases pursuant to Rule 1:40-5. Court referred cases (i.e. FD and post-judgment FM case) do not participate in the Custody and Visitation Seminar unless so ordered by the Court. The participants are not assessed a fee for participation in the Family Mediation Program.
If custody and visitation continue to be genuine issues after both parties attend the Seminar then the case is scheduled for mediation. A Consent Order drafted by the Mediation Coordinator and signed by the litigants formalizes settlements. The Consent Order becomes a legally binding Agreement only after the attorney review period of ten days and after the Court approves and signs the Order. If an attorney objection is received within the ten-days then the Judge assigned the case will case manage the matter. Unresolved cases are referred back to Court for case management of the custody/visitation dispute.
The Passaic County Family Court has been mandated to provide a Parent Education Program for all parties who are going through a divorce and who have minor children. This mandate has been in effect since November of 1999.The Parent Education Program is geared toward advising parties of the effects of divorce on the children, as well as providing parents with information as to what they can expect from a divorce in Passaic County.
Education Program is offered once a month during the day and every other month
in the evening.The Family Court is
attempting to make these programs as accessible to the participants as
The Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court/Family Division handles the processing of all domestic violence cases for Passaic County in accordance with state and federal laws on domestic violence including New Jersey's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 and the United States' Violence Against Women Acts. The unit helps the public with domestic violence problems, which include emergency requests for temporary restraining orders.The unit also assists individuals with problems concerning final restraining orders, seizure of weapons hearings, registration of court orders from other states, and enforcement of restraining orders.
Individuals requesting emergent help will appear either before a Superior Court Judge or a Domestic Violence Hearing Officer during court hours. On weekends and on weekdays after the close of the Superior Court, requests for emergent orders may be obtained through the Municipal Courts by contacting local law enforcement.
If the temporary restraining order is granted, a hearing will be scheduled within ten days for both parties to appear in Superior Court. At this next hearing, a Superior Court Judge will determine if the order is to be made final or to be dissolved.If the order is made final, the Court may also address related issues such as law enforcement assistance; seizure of weapons; monetary support; child custody and visitation.
Individuals requiring help with violations of Part I of temporary and final orders should contact local law enforcement.
People seeking help because of lack of compliance with Part II of temporary and final orders should contact the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court/Family Division during court hours.
Passaic County Women's Center, the state-funded county domestic violence program, provides a court advocacy program for victims. A victims' advocate is available in the Superior Court/Family Division to explain court procedures, to help prepare victims for hearings, to accompany victims in court and to identify other resources that victims and their families may need.Please contact the domestic violence court advocate during court hours by calling 973-247-8490. For further information regarding services provided by the Passaic County Women's Center, please call 973-881-0725 during daytime hours or call the 24 hour/7days per week hotline at 973-881-1450.
The Domestic Violence Unit is open to the public during regular courts hours. Further inquiries can be made to the unit in person or by calling 973-247-8480 during court hours.
For further information regarding domestic violence, see www.judiciary.state.nj.us/family/dv.
The Family Crisis Intervention Unit (FCIU) is responsive to families "in crisis" that may have problems with adolescents between the ages of 11 and 17.These adolescent behaviors may include but are not limited to the following: runaways, truants, substance abusers, disorderly person offenders, school failures, parent/teen conflicts, or any variety of conditions that may present danger to the family or the adolescent.
Referrals for these adolescents may originate from local schools, police departments, Division of Youth and Family Services, (DYFS), Municipal and Superior Court, families familiar with our services and various other sources.These referrals are walk-ins, telephone or scheduled appointments depending on the urgency of the crisis.
Counselors trained in family crisis situations and knowledgeable of family system dynamics will meet with the family in order to assess and identify the presenting problem in addition to a treatment plan for the family.Presently the unit has three counselors, a student intern in social work and a unit supervisor, who is a licensed social worker.
Depending on the seriousness of the difficulties in managing the behavior, the Intervention and treatment plan may include parent/child contracts, continued sessions at FCIU and referrals and assistance in contacting appropriate service providers.Only in cases where all attempts to stabilize the crisis have failed and the community resources have been exhausted will shelter placement and/or court referral by petition be utilized.
The role and purpose of the juvenile-family crisis intervention units is to provide a service designed to stabilize juvenile-family crises.The general view is that the juvenile's conduct is part of the family condition and as a result, it is structured to treat juvenile problems within the family context.
Discussions records taking place during the crisis intervention process between family members and the juvenile are confidential. The strict limitation of the disclosure is essential to the ongoing credibility of the crisis intervention process.
The Passaic Vicinage Family Crisis Intervention Unit is one of the twenty-one vicinage units throughout the State of New Jersey. Each unit operates with the recognition that the vast majority of juvenile misconduct is a result of troubled family circumstances. Ideally, the mechanism provides a non-coercive opportunity for resolving conflicts and providing needed services to families.
The CIC unit is dedicated to issues of child placement and permanency, including child abuse and neglect, which is know in the Family Court system as a (FN) case type. Here the Division of Youth & Family Services (DYFS) submits an abuse/neglect complaint for filing when they determine a child requires the protection i.e. custody care and supervision of their agency and when the parent or primary caretaker will not cooperate.
Cases are often identified by their docket types. For example:
With the exception of the Adoptions cases (FA), new complaints are entered into the Court's computer system, namely, the Family Automatic Case Tracking System, (FACTS). The staff is responsible for case management of all docket types except (FA).
The FACTS system is designed to be utilized by Family Division personnel of the Vicinage trial courts for processing and managing all phases of family case information. This statewide inquiry computer data system is available to authorized Family Court personnel. After each court hearing, the Court's disposition is entered into FACTS.
A volunteered Child Placement Review (CPR) Board hears Child Placement cases. The (CIC) Unit manages and supervises these cases from the time of a child's placement until permanency has been reached. Volunteers are considered "unpaid employees" and must be trained according to state guidelines. Volunteers are also required to follow rules of confidentiality and adhere to all ethical standards set by the court.
CHILD PLACEMENT REVIEW BOARDS PROGRAMS review out-of-home placements of minors as arranged by DYFS either as part of a voluntary consent agreement or as ordered by the court.
The Child Placement Review Board Program (CPR) is a volunteer program of the Family Division. Court appointed citizen volunteers monitor the cases of all children who are placed outside their homes by the Division of Youth and Family Services. Review board members review case plans and conducts in-person interviews of all interested parties. Boards are mandated to assess each case from the point of view of the best interests of the child with the goal of permanency. Originally, the priority was considered to be family reunification. This priority has changed since the implementation of the Adoptions Safe Families Act (see below for more detail). Family reunification remains the first plan for the child, but not the priority.
A CIC staff person is assigned to every CPR board. The Board then reviews the placement of each child placed out-of-home by DYFS. Along with CIC staff, the Boards monitor the timeliness of the movement of each case. The boards also have the ability to hold in-depth interviews with anyone who is considered an interested party. This method has proved to be essential in the decision-making process. The Board is then able to provide recommendations to the CIC Judge who makes the final decision.
The CIC staff and DYFS work together to ensure that all children receive the most effective and timely service. Case management of all DYFS matters is the responsibility of the CIC staff. The DYFS caseworker is required to submit a report with the current plan and future goal for the child. The CIC staff is largely dependent upon DYFS staff to provide all information regarding each placement.If further information is necessary for the board to review the case, CIC staff may contact parents, foster parents, DYFS personnel, relatives, outside agencies, etc. to obtain the latest facts on the case. Volunteers complete the necessary paperwork to advise the court of their findings and recommendations. The CIC staff then reviews and sends the recommendation to the Family Court Judge presiding over CIC matters. If the Judge agrees with the recommendation, a Court order is signed and distributed.
The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) files child abuse and neglect complaints. DYFS makes application to the court, via the CIC unit for care, custody and supervision of children who have been subjected to physical abuse, medical neglect, substance abuse, inadequate housing, deplorable living conditions, etc.The Children In Court Judge then presides over these matters through regular court reviews.
Title 9 and the Adoption Safe Families Act (ASFA) govern abuse and neglect matters.ASFA was signed into law by the Federal government on November 19, 1997.
New Jersey legislation was enacted on March 31, 1999. ASFA was intended to ensure a permanent home for children in placement. Prior to ASFA, children could remain in an out-of-home placement for years without any real permanency.
ASFA mandates strict requirements regarding the permanency of a child. A permanency hearing is required eleven months after placement and every 12 months thereafter. Permanency hearings are designed to ensure children in foster care placements are stabilized in a permanent home within 12 months of their removal.At this time, DYFS must present to the court their "permanent" plan for the child; whether it is return home, permanency with a relative, long-term foster care, kinship legal guardianship, adoption or an alternate placement. Regardless of the goal, ASFA was structured for a child's permanency to be achieved expediently.
Due to the seriousness of these matters, parents/defendants are entitled to representation through the Public Defender's Office, if they qualify. Although counsel is not mandatory for parents/defendants, it is strongly encouraged.A Law Guardian represents the best interests of the minor. The District Attorney General from the State of New Jersey's Law Division (DAG) represents DYFS.
Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG) (NJ ST 3B:12A-1-7), was adopted by the State of New Jersey on January 1, 2002. When considering Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG), the State was seeking to add another alternative permanent placement option beyond temporary custody and/or adoption. This placement would be for caregivers in relationships where adoption is neither feasible nor likely, without rising to the level of termination of parental rights.
In order for an individual to qualify as a "caregiver" and become a Kinship Legal Guardian, they must satisfy the following criteria:
A "kinship relationship" has been defined as a family friend or a person with a biological or legal relationship with the child; who has established a positive psychological or emotional relationship with the child. As indicated above, KLG is an alternative permanent placement option beyond temporary custody and/or adoption.
Distinctions between KLG and traditional temporary custody and/or adoption are as follows:
Unfortunately, we find ourselves with an increasingly large number of children who do not reside with their natural parents due to their inability to properly care and support them.Kinship Legal Guardianship allows for the children and their caregivers to achieve permanency and stability without terminating the parental rights of the natural parents. In addition, kinship caregivers may also qualify for subsidies and services thru the Kinship Navigator Program to assist with the care and maintenance of the child.
Should you have any questions regarding Kinship Legal Guardianship, please contact the Children In Court Unit at 973-247-8499.Below also please find websites, which may be able to provide additional information regarding KLG.
The Superior Court of NJ, Chancery Division, Family Part has jurisdiction in cases involving the termination of parental rights. These cases are referred to as "Guardianship" cases (since DYFS is requesting guardianship of the child) or "Termination of Parental Rights" (TPR).
The filing of a Termination of Parental Rights (guardianship) complaint is often the end result of a proceeding for abuse/ neglect (FN) and is a prerequisite for placing a child for adoption.Children involved in guardianship cases remain at risk until the case is fully resolved. The balancing of parental rights with the child's right to permanency, safety and security requires aggressive case processing and management toward prompt court resolution.
Federal and State legislation require that when a child has been in placement for fifteen (15) of the last twenty-two (22) months, DYFS must file a termination of parental rights complaint.While there are recognized exceptions to this standard, the court must be vigilant in assuring movement of the cases in compliance with the requirement.
The judge who has presided over the abuse/neglect case of a child also hears the guardianship case. Guardianship cases are given calendar priority and are closely monitored by the Children in Court Team to assure prompt conclusion.
Adoptions are heard by the Family Division Judges, however these cases are processed and scheduled by the County Surrogate's office. The Surrogate's office is further responsible for safekeeping and storing of these cases whether they are processed and the files are sealed or when a brand new petition is filed. Adoption cases are strictly confidential and cannot be opened/unsealed and reviewed by anyone, including the adopted child, unless permission is to do so is granted by the Presiding Judge.
|Children In Court Unit||973-247-8494|
|Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS)||1-800-531-1260|
|Passaic County Public Defenders Office||973-977-4150|
|Passaic County Lawyers Referral Service||973-278-9223|
|Northeast New Jersey Legal Services||973-523-2900|
|Kinship Navigator Program||1-877-816-3211 (toll free)|
The following is an excerpt from the Superior Court of NJ Family Division Children in Court Case Processing Manual approved by the Judicial Council December 13, 2001.
The Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act was signed into law on November 19, 1997. The law established as public policy that the health and safety of the child are of paramount concern whenever a child is placed in foster care.On March 31, 1999 New Jersey legislation was enacted to bring the state into compliance with the requirements of the federal law. The legislation, on both the state and federal level, made significant changes intended to strengthen the child welfare system's timely response to the problem of children languishing in foster care placements.
Child Protection is emphasized.
This public policy represents a "swing of the pendulum' back to the concept of primary child protection after decades of emphasis on family reunification. Documentation is required throughout the time the child's case is in court showing that the child's health, safety and permanency are being seriously considered for all decisions made regarding the child's placement, services and future.
Reasonable efforts documentation requirements are expanded.
Reasonable efforts to prevent the placement and to reunify families have been standard requirements for twenty years. The new laws require more specific documentation, as well as a third level of reasonable efforts determination-efforts to achieve permanency for the child. Implementation of the reasonable efforts provisions will be a key feature of the effectiveness of the new laws.
Documentation on judicial orders is clarified.
The 'contrary to the welfare' judicial determination must be made in the first order that sanctions (even temporarily) removal from the home.The requirement also applies to juvenile delinquency and Family Crisis matters. Reasonable efforts determinations must be made within sixty (60) days of the date of placement. Judicial determinations must be explicitly documented, made on a case-by-case basis and so stated in the court order. Neither affidavits nor nunc pro tunc nor reference to the state statute will be accepted as verification documentation in support of reasonable efforts and contrary to the welfare judicial determinations.If the reasonable efforts and contrary to the welfare judicial determinations were not included as required in the appropriate court orders, a transcript of the court proceedings is the only order documentation that will be accepted to verify that these required determinations have been made.
Advocacy on behalf of a child by relatives, foster parents, and pre-adoptive parents is expanded.
Requirements for written notice of court hearings is now required to be provided to a child's caretaker, relatives, foster parents and pre-adoptive parents, although this law does not allow them to become parties to the case.
Permanency decisions, including Termination of Parental Rights, are on a timeframe.
Permanency Hearings, defined by the law, must be held within the first 12 months of placement, and must continue to be held annually until permanency is achieved.If reasonable efforts to reunify the family are not required, then a Permanency Hearing must be held within 30 days.In addition, the law requires that a petition for Termination of Parental Rights must be filed when a child is in out-of-home placement for 15 of the last 22 months.
Concurrent planning is required.
Concurrent planning--simultaneous casework taking place for both family reunification and adoption or an alternate permanent plan. This means that DYFS may take steps to prepare a case for adoption while reasonable efforts are made to reunify the family.In cases where termination of parental rights are filed, concurrent planning is required
Continuous legal representation for children and parents is provided.
The New Jersey statute provides funds to be allocated to the Office to the Public Defender to expand its role in representing children in abuse or neglect cases to continue representing that child when a complaint for Termination of Parental Rights has been filed. Funds are also provided to the Office of Public Defender to support an office to coordinate pool attorneys to represent parents in these matters.
This program serves as an enhancement to the services provided for Family Division clients/litigants and is, for the most part, staffed by volunteers but coordinated by Family Division employees.
Criteria for eligibility:
The Family Court Supervised Visitation Program affords non-custodial parents or other family members who are going through familial crisis: separation, divorce, and/or domestic violence, an opportunity to maintain contact with their children while other alternatives for visitation are being explored.
The Supervised Visitation Program is used as a last resort for parents who need to work out some issues. Supervised visitation takes place on Saturdays for 1 ½ hours with the non-custodial parent. Cases are generally active for three months. Cases are referred back to court when supervised visitation is no longer required, or when parties fail to cooperate with the program.
Services include interviewing the parents and if applicable grandparents to discuss the rules and regulations of the program, intensive supervision in a group setting, detailed documentation of visits with the children.