Every divorce is laden with its own unique issues. But lately, our New Jersey family law attorneys have noted there are some common threads in pandemic-era relationships and divorces that are impacting whether people choose to part ways or try to work it out (at least for now).
Among our observations:
- New battlefronts. The pandemic injected a heightened degree of tension into many marriages. It did the same for many pending divorces, affecting nearly every aspect of a case, from how long the process takes to how parties appear in Court to handle them. Once routine elements of the process may now take considerable time and effort. Issues which were once easily agreed upon (in-person education for your children) have now become fiery points of contention. For some, even the job they’ve worked at for years (health care, education, retail clerk) is suddenly a flashpoint.
- Real estate considerations. Real estate prices have risen substantially (industry insiders in New Jersey refer to the “single family home boom”), which is good thing if you’re planning to sell the house and split the proceeds. However, if one spouse is looking to keep the house, it gets trickier. You bought your house for $300,000 and now it’s worth $600,000 – the one who wants to keep the place may not be able to afford to buy the other out during the era of pandemic divorce.
- Virus-related delays. Some cases have been put on the back burner because the courts have been closed or have a reduced schedule. Other times, delays have been the result of parties, lawyers or judges falling ill. Sometimes, even when the divorce has reached its conclusion, final orders may be delayed as judges work to resolve their growing backlog.
- Fewer travel expenses. As almost everything is virtual now, one need not necessarily take an entire day off work to attend a court hearing, etc.
- More headaches with documents. Notarizing documents is a fraud-deterrent process intended to assure those involved in a transaction or contract that the document is authentic and trust-worthy. Most courthouses have notary publics, so getting documents notarized quickly was rarely a problem. It is more of an issue now because while most meetings are virtual, documents must still be notarized face-to-face.
- Greater inclination to settle. It can be difficult to get a matter before a judge if it isn’t urgent. An issue like domestic violence, for instance, is going to have priority. Judges can get much more done when the next clients are simply waiting in the courtroom, ready to go. Now, everything must be done by video conference appointment, and that means not as many cases can be heard in a given day or week. This crush of cases can make settling the case – rather than continuing to litigate – an attractive option. Even before the pandemic, our East Brunswick divorce lawyers would surmise about 9 out of 10 divorce cases didn’t actually go to trial (they were mediated or settled). This trend continues. We’re seeing an increase too in collaborative divorces and mediations. If a judge can’t resolve your matter for you anytime soon, but both parties want it over with, working together is usually the best way to achieve that. (Each having your own divorce lawyer ensures you have someone to protect your rights and advocate for your best interests.) Some have found they even prefer this process, saying there is less tension in working together from the distance of a screen rather than physically side-by-side at a table.
- Private judges? If you have the means and a matter you want settled urgently, you might consider hiring a “private judge” aka an arbitrator. These are usually retired judges or other divorce attorneys that are able to handle cases without the pressure of having an entire docket to manage. This is usually only for couples willing to invest a significant sum.
The question of whether divorces are actually up amid the pandemic is still somewhat up in the air. The typical pre-Thanksgiving and Christmas lull (due to wanting to wait out the holidays, as well as year-end bonuses, etc.) has been disrupted. Reasons include the stress of so much together time, upended routines, increased domestic pressure, greater financial strain, etc. On the other hand, some have chosen to hold off on a divorce they had previously been considering because they don’t want to initiate the divorce process at a time when their spouse may be earning so much less.
No matter what the challenges of your situation – or this pandemic – our dedicated East Brunswick divorce lawyers are committed to fighting for you.
Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today at (732) 810-0034 for a free and confidential consultation.