Since the global pandemic and discovery of COVID-19 in March 2020, our everyday lives have been upended, forcing an adjustment to a new normal that we could not have anticipated. The same holds true for divorcing families and how Courts, judges, lawyers and clients have handled issues in divorce and family law.
There are many misconceptions about the ability to access the Courts during the ongoing pandemic. While Courts are physically closed to the general public, Judges and Court staff continue to work remotely, providing litigants with the ability to seek relief in their divorce or child custody matters through virtual means. Courts are not “closed.” However, as a result of our current circumstances, you may experience a significant delay in having your case heard by the Court.
For example, in the recent Appellate Division case of F.J.C. v. J.L.C., the Wife’s request for an award of counsel fees remained undecided by the Court for more than a year. In its decision, the Appellate Division expressed concern for the amount of time that elapsed from the filing of the motion to the time of the Court’s Order, stating “[w]e understand that trial courts are beset by crowded dockets. Nevertheless, fee applications should be decided without undue delay.”
If time is a factor in deciding whether to proceed with a divorce, it is important to discuss the process with an attorney experienced with the Courts in your County, and understands the likely timeframe you will face. Likewise, it is equally important that you ask your lawyer about your options outside of New Jersey’s Court system – such as arbitration, mediation and collaborative law. Unlike our Courts, these alternate dispute resolution methods do not rely on the Court’s availability and may provide a much faster way to resolve your family law dispute.
If you have questions about a family law problem, the attorneys at Donahue, Hagan, Klein & Weisberg, LLC are here to assist you. Our experienced attorneys can explain your options and the process that would best serve your needs.