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Surrogate Judge Explains Role in County

Essex County Surrogate Judge Theodore N. Stephens II deals in family law and more.

When campaigning for his position last year, Essex County Surrogate Judge Theodore N. Stephens II heard the same question over and over from residents, "What the heck is a surrogate?"

Stephens recounted this when he made a presentation about his responsibilities at the West Orange Council conference meeting last night.

The Surrogate Office, Stephens explained, administers in family law matters, specifically in the areas of wills, estates and trusts, as well as processes adoptions, assigns guardianships and manages a minor's intermingled trust fund.

Stephens said some events before his court are happy occasions, especially adoptions.  However, even then, residents still feel some anxiety when entering the courtroom. 

“It’s the only time you can go to Superior Court where everybody in the court is happy, including the judge,” said Stephens.  “But even in that situation, getting to the finish line, there is a bit of anxiousness attached.”

To help alleviate some of the stress, Stephens said the staff are “very competent and experience individuals.”

However, as Stephens looked at it, “in every situation, there could be some improvement.”

To accommodate residents' schedules, the Surrogate Office began an extended hours program on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. All meetings are by appointment only.

The Surrogate Office is located at the Hall of Records, Room 206, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., in Newark.

A schedule of fees is available online.

To make an appointment, call 973-621-4900. To access forms, visit either the surrogate website or www.essexcountynj.org.

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