There is an old adage to "Look Before You Leap." This sound advice should deeply resonate with individuals that are contemplating the filing of a motion in Family Court.
I have seen too many simple applications to the Court initiated through motion practice turn into the coming of World War III.
I make this statement due to a dangerous procedural right embedded in New Jersey Family Practice. Our Rules of Court provide that regardless of the topics or issues presented in the original Motion filing, the party that is responding to the Notice of Motion is free to cross-petition the Court for any relief that they deem fit. That is not a typo or misstatement. Once a Notice of Motion is filed, the other party has a right to petition the Court for reliefs that are not related to your original filing.
On a practical level, you need to strongly consider the potential repercussions of filing a Motion with the Court if there are provisions within your Marital Settlement Agreement that you may not be 100% compliant. For example, if you are asking the Court to award you a credit for your ex-spouse’s refusal to pay for a percentage of your child’s braces, but you may have not complied with a separate portion of your Agreement, your ex-spouse can cross-petition the Court for compliance on your end on the unrelated issue. The right of your ex-spouse under our Rules of Court to file a Cross-Motion could cost you significantly more than what you were trying to enforce.
Further, you need to be careful of a scenario in which you file a motion for a non-support related issue and receive a Cross-Motion from your ex-spouse alleging that there is a change of financial circumstance that would warrant an increase in your support obligation.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was in Court awaiting oral argument and a case was underway in which a simple parenting issue petition from one party turned into the other party successfully convincing the Court to increase alimony and child support through a Cross Motion. To add insult to injury, the party that originally filed the Motion, was not even granted their parenting time relief that they sought from the Court.
When contemplating filing a Motion, my advice is simple, make sure to speak with an experienced family law attorney to review any and all potential exposure points that may arise against you through a Cross-Motion. With the procedural flexibility set forth by our Rules of Court, you need to know what may be coming back at you to make an informed decision prior to the filing of your Motion.