The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone. With the world shutting down, closing schools, job losses, and layoffs, the pandemic has hit almost every family in New Jersey financially, even if no one in the home has gotten the virus. We've had more than 682,000 cases as of mid-February 2021 and more than 20,000 confirmed deaths. But another side effect of the pandemic has been an uptick in divorces.
At first, the number of divorce filings seemed to be down in the wake of the novel coronavirus. The lower number of divorces could be due to job losses, rising real estate prices, or even uncertainty in the world. But when New York courts reopened in June of 2020, lawyers reported a sharp increase in divorce clients. The reasons could involve additional stress placed on marriages with lockdown, financial stress, and childcare with kids learning virtually while parents try to work. It could also be partly a result of a backlog from when courts were closed, but it doesn't seem to be letting up.
Although interest in divorce is up, it's important to understand the limitations divorce and family courts everywhere, including New Jersey, are facing.
Delays and Increased Costs Due to Coronavirus
Like all states, New Jersey family courts are facing challenges right now due to virtual hearings, coronavirus health protocols, and other problems. But these challenges also mean that divorces can take longer and cost more. As a result, more people are coming to financial and child custody and visitation agreements outside of the courtroom.
- Court Closings
New Jersey courts were closed from March 14, 2020, to June 22, 2020. But only a small number of judges work in the courthouse every day, with others working remotely to ensure safe distancing in the courthouse. As a result, there is quite a backlog of non-urgent motions, hearings, and trials across the state. Each time the court postpones a hearing, it costs more for all parties, particularly if attorneys have already begun to prepare for a hearing.
- Courthouse Wait Times
Even now that courts are open, not all services are at full capacity. And while attorneys can now file many documents remotely, those they must file in person become more difficult to file because a limited number of people may be in the courthouse at one time. Attorneys, the parties to a court action, and other workers must wait outside the courthouse in line to maintain social distancing inside the courthouse.
- Notarizing Documents
Even tasks like notarizing documents, necessary for many legal filings and agreements, have become more challenging. Many attorneys and their clients find themselves negotiating agreements and documents virtually but then exchanging documents that require notarization among the parties through the mail.
Contact the Lento Law Firm
If you're contemplating beginning the divorce process in New Jersey, it's important to understand the challenges the courts face right now. But it's also important to hire a skilled family attorney experienced in navigating the New Jersey court system in the age of COVID-19. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experiencing helping family law clients in New Jersey, and he can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today.
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