Historic Court Backlogs in NJ Divorce Court due to Coronavirus
Our Passaic County Family Lawyers are here to help you navigate the process even in the absence of a court date.
Recently the Administrative Office of the Courts of New Jersey has released statistics on the court proceedings. Given the unprecedented closures required due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a huge backlog of cases awaiting trial in the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part. This means that couples seeking a divorce, changes to their custody arrangements or new custody agreements, changes to their parenting time agreements due to pandemic-caused shifts, and all others within family matters that require court attention are having to wait an inordinate amount of time to have their case heard.
So what can a family facing such a backlog do to move forward with their process of separation or amendment to custody arrangements? Fortunately, there are some options.
One clear path forward is mediation. Unlike what many people think, mediation is not an attempt to reconcile a relationship. On the contrary, it is the use of a neutral third party to facilitate the divorce process. Mediation is only an option when the separating couple has an amicable relationship. Because mediation requires that both parties come to full agreement on the separation of assets and other prudent aspects of the divorce, there must be an active collaboration by both parties to make the mediation swift. If the couple has a history of domestic abuse or trauma, it is unlikely that mediation is the appropriate way forward, as unresolved emotional barricades may reduce the trust and collaboration necessary for a functioning mediation process.
Generally speaking, the cost of mediation is cheaper than litigation. One of the main reasons for this is that separating couples who can come together to terminate the marriage business spare themselves quite a bit of money in legal fees.
For mediation to be successful, both spouses must be represented by an attorney, as the mediator is somewhat like a presiding judge and is not a representative of either party. As such, the mediator will need to have all pertinent information at hand to come to a quality resolution; hiring an experienced family law attorney to support you in gathering the required information needed to properly and fairly distribute assets is essential. Because New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, all marital assets and debts are fairly distributed in the divorce. This includes all properties, vehicles, savings, investments, valuables, and outstanding debts you and your spouse share.
Collaborative Family Law
Still, another option for couples seeking to resolve disputes in the pandemic era swiftly is to engage in the process of collaborative family law. Like mediation, collaborative law is founded on the teamwork of the couple and their legal representation. The collaborative law process relies on the fundamental agreement that both parties will stay in the goal-oriented process until a resolution is found, without pulling out and turning to litigation. If one of the people leaves the collaborative process, they must seek new counsel to return to the process. This essentially means starting over the process. Such a precedent is put in place because it hammers home the agreement that the collaborative family law process’s essential foundation is staying at the table when things get tough. Another element of collaborative family law is that the resolution team generally includes a financial expert and a mental health expert to provide appropriate facilitation.
Another option for couples who wish to settle disputes but are coming up against long court wait times is to undergo arbitration. While a mediator supports the divorce process, an arbitrator facilitates the settlement of disputes. An arbitrator is certified by the New Jersey Bar Association or the American Arbitration Association and is often an experienced lawyer or retired family law judge. As the outcome of a dispute is settled in court, the outcome of an arbitration is legally binding; there is, of course, the opportunity for appeal. Utilizing an arbitrator ensures a much swifter resolution than is often found in court, as an arbitrator is solely focused on your case.
Contact our Little Falls office for any of your Divorce or any other Family Law Related Issue.
At The Montanari Law Group, our divorce attorneys are experienced in providing our clients across Wayne, Paterson, Clifton, West Milford, Woodland Park, Little Falls, and Passaic County the guidance they need to obtain a divorce or resolve their family disputes in these trying times.