The coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey has locked down nearly everything although the courts are continuing to operate on a limited basis.
Whether you were in the middle of getting a divorce, just starting the process, or contemplating leaving your wife when the governor declared a state of emergency in late March 2020, there are five things men and fathers in New Jersey need to know what will happen to their case while the emergency persists.
Keep in mind the COVID-19 pandemic is creating a rapidly changing situation. The information in this blog is believed to be accurate as of the date it was posted. If you have a question about your specific divorce, feel free to contact me or any of the family law attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey at the Micklin Law Group.
1 – Family courts in New Jersey remain open virtually
Like all of us, judges and the court support staff still are learning how to work remotely. Emergency online hearings continue to be held for domestic violence matters or if the abuse involves children, and those involving child custody or visitation disputes. However, trials for divorces have been postponed for the most part except for an E-Divorce filing where the couple have agreed on a property settlement, support issues, and those involving any children from the marriage.
2 – The Status of Pending Divorces in New Jersey
Court trials are being postponed until after stay-at-home orders have been lifted. If there were unresolved issues in your divorce that can be negotiated and resolved, it is possible to ask the court via a video conference to grant the divorce. If a judge agrees that the settlement is fair and matters surrounding any kids are in the best interests of the children, it is probable that the court will approve the resolution and grant the divorce.
3 – Mediation and Pre-Trial Settlement Hearings
Mediation sessions are continuing online because if there is a way to resolve open issues in the divorce without a trial, it is in the best interests of both parties to do so. If a satisfactory resolution can be worked out, then it is possible to schedule a short hearing online with a judge to finalize the divorce. The mediation process can be a bit more cumbersome than when everybody is in one room, but we are continuing to participate in them when it is feasible to do so.
For most open and pending cases, pre-trial settlement conferences are being postponed because there won’t be a trial until the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. An exception is if attorneys for the husband and wife believe the couple is fairly close to reaching an agreement and the settlement conference might nudge them into finalizing the remaining details.
4 – Emergency Hearings
A family court will schedule an emergency online hearing if there is an allegation of spousal or child abuse, if child protective services has become involved, if there are problems with custody or visitation issues, or if an existing court order is being violated. Depending on the facts and circumstances of a specific situation, we may be able to petition for a virtual emergency hearing before a judge. However, if the issue involves a man or father in New Jersey becoming concerned that their ex-spouse is violating the state lockdown order and exposing their child to COVID-19, it is unlikely to be considered an emergency. An exception may be made if the emergency hearing request involves a special needs child or one at risk because of other medical matters.
5 – New Divorce Filings
Electronic filing of divorce papers for men and fathers in New Jersey has been the norm for some time now, so it is possible to initiative a divorce even during the Covid-19 lockdown. For couples that want to end their marriage yet are on good terms and can resolve all of the outstanding issues, our E-Divorce service may bring a much faster resolution.
The family attorneys for men and fathers at the Micklin Law Group in New Jersey are working remotely every day. We are in touch with each other and the court as well as having full access to client files thanks to our electronic infrastructure. If you are a man or father in New Jersey and have specific questions about either the status of your case or are wondering if now is the time to file for divorce, we can meet with you in our Virtual Law Office or we can discuss your situation by phone at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.
To schedule an appointment, please request a day/time here.