New Jersey’s rule governing venue in family court matters, R. 5:7-1, has, until recently been a much overlooked, pro forma, check of the proverbial box when filing a client’s Complaint for Divorce. The overwhelming majority of the time, venue never arises as a “issue” in a matrimonial proceeding, as the Complaint for Divorce is filed in the county in which the Plaintiff is domiciled when the cause of action arose. In the rare instances when the Plaintiff is not a domiciliary of the State of New Jersey, then venue may be properly laid in the county in which the Defendant was domiciled when the cause of action arose. However R. 5:7-1 had, until recently, provided an inherent impediment to same-sex, non-residents of our state, who may have united by way of a domestic partnership or civil union within our state. Pursuant to the recent rule change, a non-resident of New Jersey can now file for a termination of a domestic partnership or civil union in the State of New Jersey, when those individuals might not have the appropriate forum of their own in which to file. Specifically, amendments to the Rule now provide, in relevant part:
For purposes of this rule, in actions brought under N.J.S.A. 26:8A-10 for termination of a domestic partnership in which both parties are non-residents and without a forum available to dissolve the domestic partnership, venue shall be laid in the county in which the Certificate of Domestic Partnership is filed. For purposes of this rule, for the dissolution of a civil union created in New Jersey in which both parties are now non-residents and without a forum available to dissolve the civil union, venue shall be laid in the county in which the civil union was solemnized.
New Jersey’s Rule amendments have provided a significant step towards marriage equality, and arguably, have made New Jersey a desirable forum for same-sex couples to, for example, register their domestic partnership or civil union, thereby providing a forum for a dissolution proceeding, when their then-existing home state may not provide them with same.
Notwithstanding the Rule amendments, and the liberality now provided for, it is nonetheless important to consult with competent counsel regarding registration requirements other fact-sensitive nuances which may effect your dissolution proceeding.