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Is it Harder to Get a Divorce With COVID-19?

Judge Writing On Paper

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of upheaval, both personal and professional. Working from home has led to more family time, which has been both a blessing and a curse, depending on the relationship. While many couples may now realize they should seek divorce, they are likely to face complications caused by the pandemic: Court delays, financial struggles, office closures, and other issues may make it harder to either seek or finalize a divorce during these troubled times. Read on for a discussion of some of the complications facing parties seeking divorce during the COVID-19 era, and reach out to a dedicated Englewood divorce attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.

Court closures and delays

The New Jersey court system has essentially shut down for in-person procedures for an indefinite period of time, until the administration determines that it is safe enough to reopen without exposing parties and court personnel to unjustifiable risk of infection. Aside from certain emergency matters and ongoing trials, there are no in-person family court proceedings.

Court proceedings may, however, be held by telephone or video conference, depending on the individual judge and the capacity of the parties. Parties may file court documents electronically, by mail, or via designated drop-boxes. While parties can expect deadlines to be delayed and hearings to be rescheduled, with the availability of teleconferencing and videoconferencing, matters should nevertheless be able to continue. As the courts continue to figure things out, jury trials in particular are likely to be delayed for some time.

Outside the courtroom, parties will be able to meet with the lawyers at Herbert & Weiss LLP via remote conference or phone calls. Additionally, arbitration, mediation, and settlement negotiations can be conducted via telephone or videoconference upon agreement of the parties. Speak with your family law attorney to discuss your future or ongoing divorce proceeding to find out how your matter is likely to proceed.

Economic complications

As we have discussed, the pandemic has created financial hardships for many people around the country. Business closures have led to reduced business income, furloughs, and layoffs, and financial assets such as stocks and real estate are seeing more volatility. Those seeking a divorce may find it harder to value assets for distribution, or, for example, find a buyer for the family home in order to sell and split the proceeds in the divorce. It may be more difficult for either party to keep the house and pay the mortgage, and it may be more difficult to afford child support or alimony.

These issues might not keep you from filing for or finalizing a divorce, but they might make the process a bit more complicated. If you are considering filing for divorce, or if you are already in the process of divorcing, make sure that you discuss your financial situation with your lawyer, your accountant, and any other members of your team in order to ensure that the financial impact of the coronavirus is adequately taken into account.

Uncontested and default divorces easier to get

The New Jersey courts have been working to make some court proceedings easier in the era of COVID-19. The Administrative Office of the Courts issued Directive #18-20 on June 5, 2020. The Directive permits parties seeking uncontested divorces and default divorce judgments to secure judgments “on the papers,” without the need for an actual hearing. Uncontested divorces are those in which the parties agree to divorce and fully agree on all divorce-related issues, and default divorces are those in which one party has filed for divorce, given the other spouse adequate and proper notice of the filing, and the other spouse has not responded with anything to the court.

The “on the papers” judgments are available so long as the party is seeking one of the following:

● Dissolution of the marriage, with no further relief;
● Dissolution of the marriage, and the filing comes with a divorce settlement agreement or prior court order that completely resolves all divorce-related issues between the parties, such as child support, division of property, and child custody.

If the parties have any remaining disputes, this procedure will not be available. The courts also have discretion to hold a hearing if the court feels it appropriate and necessary for the proceedings. The Directive applies to divorces as well as annulments and dissolution of civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Get Help from a Seasoned and Effective New Jersey Divorce Attorney

If you’re dealing with divorce, child support, child custody, or other family law issues in New Jersey, contact the Englewood family law attorneys at Herbert & Weiss at 201-440-6300 for help.

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