New Jersey Superior Court, Family Division of Essex County is the busiest family law courthouse in New Jersey. The diverse county of Essex includes wealthy areas like Short Hills and Livingston and poorer areas in Irvington and Newark. The courthouse is located at 212 Washington Street in Newark, NJ. While there are many different types of family law cases in a family law courthouse, this article will focus on the Judges of the Matrimonial Division which handles divorces and post divorce actions.
Judge Nancy Sivilli is one of the longest standing family law/divorce judges in Essex County. Judge Sivilli was a civil court judge prior to being transferred to the family division where she handles a very heavy docket. Judge Sivilli is a neutral judge that understands both sides of the story as she is married and has children. While it is not critical for a family law judge to have kids, I believe having kids gives you a different persepective than someone that does not. Judge Sivilli make the speech at the early settlement panel to inform litigants of their chance to resolve their matters before having a trial.
The next judge is the Honorable Judge Donald Kessler who has also been on the family law bench of Essex County for a long time. Judge Kessler is a stickler to the rules of the court, but is a very kind and patient person. He does not tolerate yelling or other unruly behavior in his court. He permits people to make their arguments one at a time as a court should be like and not like the Maury Show that some judges permit. Judge Kessler is a family man who really watches out for the needs of the children in each case over anything else.
Judge Michael Casale is the next judge that focuses on matrimonial cases and is a judge that I believe understands the rules of equitable distribution more than most judges. In a recent case, he ruled that the party who invested pre-marital funds into the marital home should retrieve that portion of the equity before dividing anything that may be left. While other judges rule that once you invest money together, the money is “commingled” and the division of the money is lost. This latter argument to me does not make sense in a court of equity. I agree to Judge Casale’s methods and theory.
Whether you have a case before Judge Sivilli, Judge Casale or Judge Kessler, Judge Neil Jasey, Judge Russell, Judge Adobato, the divorce process in Essex can be very long because of the “war between Trenton and Essex” and the lack of judges allotted to Essex which has caused a family court trial backlog. While there is a backlog, the good news is that these judges are very wise and do manage their calendars quite well.