In general, the Chancery Division handles cases where the person suing is asking for something other than money. Examples include foreclosure on a mortgage, a divorce, or the appointment of a guardian for an incapacitated person. The Chancery Division has three parts: Family Part, Probate Part and General Equity Part. Cases from the Chancery Division may also be appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
Chancery Division, Family Part
All civil actions in which the principal claim arises out of a family or family-type relationship are heard in the Family Part of the Chancery Division. This includes cases involving divorce, adoption, custody, visitation, domestic violence, child neglect and abuse, and juvenile matters.
Chancery Division, Probate Part
The Surrogate’s Court is a part of the probate court system. Matters heard in the Probate Part include challenges to wills, appointments of administrators or conservators, requests for declarations of incapacity and appointment of guardians. The Surrogate is an elected position. Sometimes the Surrogate acts as a judge, reviewing certain kinds of cases without giving them to a judge, and sometimes he acts as a clerk, accepting papers that are filed for the probate court and organizing them for the judge who will hear them.
A Special Note About Adoption Cases
Adoption complaints are filed with the Surrogate but are decided by a judge in the Family Part. The Surrogate acts as a clerk for adoption cases, accepting papers that are filed, organizing and managing them. The Surrogate then passes the adoption cases back to the Family Part of the Chancery Division, where they are decided by a Family Part judge.
Chancery Division, General Equity Part
All civil actions where the person suing is not asking for money and the case does not involve a family–type dispute or a probate subject, such as a challenge to a will or a request for the appointment of a guardian, are decided in the General Equity Part of the Chancery Division. Examples include foreclosure cases and cases involving the appointment of a special Medical Guardian for a person who cannot make his or her own medical decisions. (Note: this differs from a case asking for the appointment of a guardian for an incapacitated person, which is filed and decided in the Probate Part of the Chancery Division.)