Final Orders

This post was written by Seth R. Parker, Esq., an associate in our Family Law Practice Group, residence in the Roseland, New Jersey office. 

I was recently before a trial court judge that had mistakenly denied my motion for reconsideration of his pendente lite Order on the papers because I had filed my application more than twenty days after the entry of his Order. When I politely advised him that his Order was not a final judgment or order and therefore was not bound by the prescribed deadline because each and every clause of it contained the phrase, without prejudice,  he seemed frankly puzzled. I then provided him with a supplementary copy of R. 4:49-2, and an Amended Order was swiftly issued.

When I recently read the unpublished appellate decision in M.M. v. M.G., I began to realize how a failure to appreciate this distinction of what is a final order and what is not, can have grave and sometimes quirky consequences in the world of Family Law. In that case, the Appellate Division reversed and remanded a trial judge’s decision to deny a litigant a hearing when he learned that he may not have been the natural father of his presumed son.

M.G., or Matt as he is known in the decision, was married to M.M., known as Mary, in 1989. Two children were born of their marriage, Lance and Adam. The parties were divorced in 1999. In 2009, Matt was adroitly approached by a family friend, Neil (I presume Neil ceased to be one after he spoke with Matt), and told that he, and not Matt, was Lance’s real father. Neil provided Matt with a paternity test that confirmed his belief.