The Effect of Restraining Orders on Service Requirements.
The Wife in J.C. v. M.C., 2013 N.J. Super. LEXIS 213 (Ch. Div. Sept. 13, 2013) was granted a Final Restraining Order against the Husband. However, the Wife did not file for a divorce from the Husband. After some time, the Husband sought to serve the Wife with a Summons and Complaint for Divorce, but could not verify her address. The Rules of Court require that the Plaintiff in a divorce action serve the Defendant with the Summons and Complaint, or to make a showing of a diligent inquiry to make such service. Thus, the Husband would be required to make inquiries regarding the Wife’s whereabouts.
The Court in J.C. v. M.C. highlighted that the Rules regarding service of the Complaint for Divorce upon the Defendant and the protection/privacy afforded to victims of domestic violence, under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, are at odds with one another. The Court held that the safety concerns regarding victims of domestic violence take precedent over the diligent inquiry requirements of the Rules of Court. In order to avoid the Catch-22, enforcing both the Husband’s right to seek a divorce and the Wife’s right to privacy under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the Court directed the domestic violence section of the Family Division to forward the Husband’s Summons and Complaint for Divorce, via regular and certified mail, to the Wife at her last known address on file.
The Court also noted that under the Address Confidentiality Program, N.J.S.A.47:4-1, victims of domestic violence may be served with legal process by way of substituted service upon the Office of the Secretary of State, where applicable.
If you have questions about service issues, contact the law firm of Wilhelm & Roemersma to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.
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