Family law cases are complex legal matters that often involve mountains of paperwork. Just as one party to a case will have reams of papers on his or her case, family law judges are often inundated with paperwork of their own. Motion papers make up a significant portion of the paperwork on a judge’s desk, and having enough information on paper to make a determination of a particular motion can be challenging for a judge. For that reason, plenary hearings are often ordered in family law cases. A plenary hearing occurs when a judge needs more information to rule on a matter than he or she has in the paperwork for the case.
WHY HOLD A PLENARY HEARING IN A FAMILY LAW CASE?
Why would a judge order a plenary hearing? New Jersey case law has held that the family part has the discretion to determine whether the motion papers are sufficient enough to rule on a motion, or if more information in the form of testimony is required. Because of this, New Jersey courts are reluctant to rule on motion cases based solely on written statements in motion documents when there is an opportunity to hear testimony in addition to the written statements.
WHEN IS A PLENARY HEARING REQUIRED?
A plenary hearing is required when the material facts of a case are in dispute by the parties, and the judge feels that hearing testimony of the parties would allow the court to resolve the factual issues. As you may imagine, two former spouses may offer different version of events or facts relating to their case. Hearing the testimony of the parties may often allow a judge to better determine where the truth of the matter at hand lies. A recent New Jersey family law case dealt with disputed facts in a divorce and support case.
Galante v. Galante
Galante v. Galante was a March 2015 New Jersey family law case that dealt with divorce, child support, and alimony issues. The husband in the case sought a modification of the support obligations in the former couple’s marital settlement agreement (MSA) due to changed financial circumstances. In his motion to modify those issues, the husband requested a plenary hearing on the matter. The trial judge in the case did not grant the request for the hearing, and ruled against the husband. When the case was appealed, the New Jersey Appellate Division found that the trial judge abused its discretion by not ordering a plenary hearing since there were material facts in dispute.
Plenary hearings are complex legal proceedings. Knowing when to pursue a plenary hearing in your family law case and how to handle the proceeding itself is crucial to achieving your desired outcome. Please call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen to discuss the particulars of your case in a free consultation.
Weber v. Weber, 268 N.J. Super. 64 (App. Div. 1993).
Galante v. Galante, NJ Appellate Div. 2015