Legal proceedings have language unto themselves, full of phrases that sometimes make no sense outside a law firm office or courtroom.
Most legal professionals recognize this and do their best to ensure clients understand what’s happening, but sometimes, it can be hard to keep up. And if you’re in the middle of something as life-altering as a divorce, the emotional load can make it hard to keep terminology and acronyms straight.
Part of a more manageable, de-stressed divorce process is clearing up confusion before it even sets in. To help, we’ve compiled a list of common acronyms you can expect to see during the divorce process in New Jersey, what they stand for, and what they mean for you.
CMC: Case Management Conference
The case management conference, or CMC, is generally the first event scheduled after you or your soon-to-be ex files for divorce.
During the CMC, the judge will review your case’s important elements with attorneys for both parties. They’ll talk about child custody, child support, and parenting plans if you have children. If either of you will be asking for alimony, they’ll talk about how to establish incomes, and whether vocational evaluations are necessary.
While it helps the court to know where you and your ex agree and where you don’t, the primary purpose of the CMC is to establish a timeline for your case. The judge will work with your lawyers to set deadlines for discovery, production of documents, filing of Case Information Statements, and whether there are evaluations or appraisals that are needed. This is the time when the court sets deadlines for home appraisals or CMAs, the hiring of forensic accountants, custody evaluators, etc.
All of this is done to keep your case on track and moving forward through the system, and, if you have an uncooperative party, to keep everyone from prolonging the matter by dragging their feet.
CMO: Case Management Order
After the CMC, the judge will issue a Case Management Order or CMO.
The CMO is a court order that formalizes the case management deadlines and requirements everyone agreed to in the CMC. It’s also where the court can qualify any specifics for your case, and it will also list the next scheduled event, whether it’s another CMC, an Early Settlement Panel, or another appearance.
The judge has the power to impose sanctions if you fail to comply with the deadlines and requirements listed in the CMO without being granted an adjournment or some other accommodation. These sanctions may include:
- Dismissing your case
- Issuing a default judgment
- Limiting evidence admissibility
CSG: Child Support Guidelines
Under New Jersey family law, child support payments are usually governed, or at least informed by the child support guidelines or CSG.
New Jersey’s CSG contains rules and guidance that are more than 100 pages long, but in simple terms, the guidelines factor in the following (and more) when calculating a child support obligation:
- Distribution of time between parents as per the parties’ parenting time plan
- Gross income for both parents, including, bonuses, royalties, wages, commissions, annuities, workers’ compensation, life insurance, distributions from retirement accounts, Social Security or disability income, income tax credits, etc.
- Health insurance contributions and where outside the routine costs, uncovered medical expenses
- Ages and number of children involved
- Alimony paid and received
- Other benefits received by the children or parties (SSI, SSDI, etc.)
- Tax obligations of the parties related to their incomes
The court may also consider any other factors it deems relevant as needed or if the parties exceed the income caps within the CSG calculations
ESP: Early Settlement Panel
An early settlement panel, or ESP, is a mandatory court appearance for all divorcing couples in New Jersey divorce cases.
A form of alternative dispute resolution, or ADR (bonus acronym!), an ESP is where both parties present their positions on the economic issues in their case to a panel of volunteer attorneys, who all practice matrimonial law, and the attorneys provide feedback on how they think a court will determine the issues.
While each legal matter is different, and the procedure for ESP can differ from county to county, an Early Settlement Panel might look like this:
- Both parties and their lawyers attend an opening speech from a family court judge (along with other divorcing couples and their lawyers who are scheduled for ESP that day) a family court judge to make sure everyone understands the expectations and goals for the day.
- Both attorneys will have previously submitted their proposals to a volunteer panel of two or three experienced family law attorneys.
- The panel, having read the position statements in advance, discusses the basic facts of the case, talks with the attorneys as to unanswered questions and issues involved, discusses the matter between themselves (the panelists), and then tells the attorneys and the parties, how they believe the court might rule on any unresolved issues. This can provide you with an opportunity to try to creatively resolve the issues with feedback and guidance from experienced lawyers who are neutral and may be able to see things from a different perspective.
These recommendations are not binding, but they can give you an idea of where you and your ex may need to compromise if you hope to avoid litigation.
NOM/NOX: Notice of Motion/Notice of Cross-Motion
A motion is a written request for affirmative relief filed with the court. The goal of a motion is to obtain a desired order, ruling, or direction. You can file different types of motions depending on the needs of your legal strategy and the needs of your case.
During divorce, some common motions involve:
- Custody and parenting time
- Establishing alimony or child support
- Modification of prior court orders
- Compelling the other party to share specific information or answer specific questions (discovery)
- Asking the judge to reconsider decisions they’ve already made
Each motion must have a notice of motion (NOM) included. A NOM is a summary of the requests, a response deadline, and a request for the date for the court to hear the application and make a ruling.
In New Jersey divorce cases, the defendant can file a cross motion, which is not only answering the issues raised in the motion, but seeking their own affirmative relief. As with a motion, cross-motions also must have a notice of cross-motion (NOX) attached.
Interrogatories, or ROGS, are part of the discovery process in a divorce. ROGS are usually lists of written questions submitted to the other side; the parties must answer these questions in writing and under oath. In New Jersey, you typically have 60 days to respond to ROGS, but the CMO (do you remember what this is?), may set different timelines for the production of the Interrogatories and the timelines for answering them.
The purpose of ROGS is to help your lawyer obtain and organize information pertaining to the specific issues in your case. As such, you should never respond to ROGS without input from legal counsel. This will help you avoid making mistakes such as providing incorrect information, too much information, or answering questions you are protected from answering.
NTP: Notice to Produce
A notice to produce (NTP) is a written request that the other party produce documentation during discovery. You can ask for tax returns, bank account statements, loan statements, insurance policy information, etc.
New Jersey law generally allows the receiver 35 days to respond to an NTP, but as with the ROGS above, the CMO may set different timelines for the production of the requests and the timelines for answering the requests.
Note that with an NTP, you can ask for expert reports to be turned over, the name of witnesses who might be called, for books and records of a business one party owns, real estate records, etc. The possibilities for what is requested are based on the issues in the divorce.
It’s important to remember that certain circumstances allow you to object to an NTP.
MSA: Marital Settlement Agreement
Your marital settlement agreement (MSA) includes the terms for ending your marriage that you and your ex have both agreed to. It includes information about the equitable distribution of assets, custody arrangements, your parenting plan, support payments and schedules, etc.
Your MSA is a legally binding contract, and while modifications may be possible in the future, they generally require you to demonstrate a change in circumstances.
JOD: Judgment of Divorce
Your MSA may be your comprehensive post-divorce plan, but having one doesn’t mean you’re divorced. You won’t legally be divorced until the judgment of divorce (JOD) is issued, which is entered after either a settlement or a trial, and in that instance, includes the terms of the court’s decision.
The JOD is a legally binding document that includes the names of the parties and various legal language as to the specific grounds on which the divorce was granted. If you have settled, it will also incorporate the terms outlined in your MSA.
Take the first step to de-stress your New Jersey Divorce
Is your head swimming yet from all the acronyms? We’re here to help make it clearer. One of the foundational principles of Jacobs Berger is our commitment to destressing the divorce process, which involves providing information, resources, and solution-oriented support.
If you’d like a team focused on avoiding divorce drama, schedule your strategic planning session today.