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What is the consequence of violating a "civil stipulation"?

New Jersey |

I was harassed by my former spouse & filed a complaint which resulted in a guilty plea & the judge "granted civil stipulation as per R.7:6-2(A)". I had to file a motion in family court & included the disposition from that case to prove that I was being harassed. I didn't know that family court is a civil court but the judge didn't think it was relevant anyway. My former spouse just filed a complaint against me and I've been charged with 2C:52-30 which is revealing an expunged or sealed record. The judge in the harassment case referred to the civil stipulation as "sealing the record" but I don't think that's correct. In NJ records can't be expunged or sealed for 5 years for a disorderly persons offense. I don't think I broke the law but I don't know what to say in court to prove it.

The motion case is closed & that judge didn't reference the harassment in the final order so I don't believe my ex suffered any damages from my mistake. My only concern is the criminal charge & I'm planning to highlight to the judge that I was ignorant of the civil stipulation: I thought it just meant I couldn't use it to sue in civil court, I didn't know that it couldn't be brought up in family court. In the initial motion that my ex filed there was a claim that I "misused the domestic violence laws" (I also have an FRO against my ex) so I I felt the need to include the harassment disposition to defend myself. I honestly didn't know that family court was a part of civil court (I thought there were 3 courts: criminal, civil & family). I feel very strongly that the 2C:52-30 is a false & invalid charge. Should I write a letter to family court to ask them to strike the document from the record to make amends for my mistake? Is there anything else I should do to defend myself? Thank you.

Attorney Answers 2


  1. Best answer

    The rule you are making reference to is a court order that prohibits a guilty plea in a quasi-criminal prosecution from being used in any related civil proceeding. A good example would be if someone were issued a ticket for "careless driving" as a result of an accident which caused personal injuries to another individual. If the person pled "guilty" to the careless driving charge, he could do so with a "civil stipulation" or "civil reservation." This means that the plea of guilty or admission of carelessness could be used for that court proceeding only, and could no be used in any civil proceeding claiming personal injuries by the other driver. I do not know whether I agree that your use of the guilty plea in the civil proceeding is a violation of NJSA 2C:52-30. It is clearly not an expunged record and arguably not a sealed record. However, at the very least, I would say that you are guilty of "contempt" for failing to comply with the order of the municipal court judge.


  2. No matter how you slice it you did something wrong. How the court will "punish" it is very uncertain. Sometimes the court will not grant your application or will modify it. One way you may deal with this issue is to use another incident of harassment which came AFTER the municipal court hearing. Your post clearly indicates you are not using a lawyer, probably because you think your side is right. If your ex is using a lawyer, he knows he has to use evey legal defense available to him, so I would recommend you get a lawyer too,
    On my profile there are several legal guides. I recommend reviewing the following which may be helpful to you:

    Hiring a lawyer helpful; Is it Legal? Is it Illegal?
    Understanding the different court systems;
    A guide to legal terms used in litigation…………………………………l.

    Divorce in General and How It's Handled in New Jersey
    Financial Dos and Don'ts after a Divorce (written by Attorney Gabriel Cheong)
    LEGAL DISCLAIMER…………………………………………………………………..
    Mr. Sarno is licensed to practice law in NJ and NY. His response here is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter in question. Many times the questioner may leave out details which would make the reply unsuitable. Mr. Sarno strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their own state to acquire more information about this issue.