It can be extremely frustrating to be on the receiving end of yet another application in Family Court. Post-judgment family actions can continue for years especially where litigants have children in common.
How Many Times Can a Family Court Application Be Filed?
Unfortunately for those on the receiving end of court filing after court filing, there is no bright-line rule about how many times a party can file an application in Family Court. A court generally will not intervene to limit a party’s access to the courts, absent exceptional circumstances, because such access is a constitutional right under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
New Jersey Courts have held that a complete and blanket denial of a party’s access to the courts without regard for an application’s merits would be a denial of due process. However, all hope is not lost for litigants who feel they have been abused by frivolous or excessive court filings.
What Restrictions Exist With Family Court Applications?
A court can, in some instances, limit a litigant’s ability to file applications. However, before any prior restraint on access can be considered, the use of the litigation to harass must be first objectively determinable. In other words, it must be apparent to a reasonable observer that a claim is being made by one party to harass the other.
What is a Determinable Circumstance?
Many family law litigants feel they are being attacked or harassed because they are back in court, yet again. Still, that does not mean a court filing will rise to the level of harassment.
For example, what if a party files an application seeking a change in parenting time, then three months later files an application to take advantage of the child tax credit, and then two months later files an application to compel the other party to contribute to the cost of extracurricular activities?
The party on the receiving end of multiple court filings may feel such actions are pointed to make him/her incur unnecessary fees or as harassment. But, without more, a reasonable observer likely would not determine that those filings were harassing in nature. Thus, the court would not limit a litigant’s access to it in those circumstances. Before taking legally drastic measures to limit a party’s access to the court, a court would likely try to deter future filings by awarding counsel fees to the responding party or sanctioning the filing party.
What Happens When a Restraint is Imposed?
Where a pattern of frivolous litigation can be demonstrated, a court can prevent an application from being filed when other available sanctions prove unsuccessful as a deterrent.
In the event a restraint is imposed on a party, it must apply to specifically identified claims that have been determined to constitute objective harassment. A court will not simply issue a blanket denial of a litigant’s access to it.
Trust Rigden Lieberman When You’re Called to Family Court
If you’re on the receiving end of excessive court filings, contact Rigden Lieberman about your next steps.