No one could have predicted this time last year that we would still be in the throes of a pandemic. It is almost incomprehensible that it has been almost a year since most litigators have been physically in a courtroom. That does not mean that the legal system has come to a halt. As they say, the show must go on.
The sheer volume of cases that are heard by the family courts in the various counties of this state required almost immediate adjustment to virtual/telephonic hearings. Notwithstanding the best efforts of every member of the system, the pandemic has caused a backlog that will take time to resolve. That backlog makes the already stressful divorce process even more unnerving to litigants who are also struggling with the pandemic effects as well.
“Litigants are understandably concerned about how and when their case will be heard and whether it will get the same attention that it would have received pre-pandemic given the stressed state of the judicial system,” says Stephanie Zane, Esq., of Archer’s matrimonial and family law department.
While the Courts did a great job pivoting to the virtual world, trials are delayed and it will take time when the restrictions are lifted before the new normal will be established, says Zane. The present reality makes it essential that litigants seek the representation of an experienced family law attorney to assist them through the process.
The attorneys in Archer’s matrimonial department have in excess of 125 years of combined experience. “It is that level of experience which allows us to guide our clients through this pandemic and the virtual litigation process to keep cases moving forward despite not being in the actual courtroom. Experience is what allows us to share with clients what will likely happen in their matter so that they have the confidence to make decisions to bring their matter to a conclusion long before a judicial determination can be made,” says Zane.
The Archer matrimonial and family law department is prepared to handle matters throughout the state of New Jersey including divorce, custody/parenting time, child support, college contribution, alimony, relocation, adoption and domestic violence.
Many litigants are also seeking alternatives to litigation including mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Mediation is often seen as the kinder, gentler and less expensive way to achieve a resolution. The process only works if both parties come to the table ready to compromise. “Local mediators and arbitrators are very busy because the stress of the pandemic coupled with the stress of the divorce are pushing people to seek faster routes to finality,” Zane says. “In my opinion, when choosing mediation, the parties should look for someone with experience in matrimonial and family law matters. One of the advantages to families in this area is the breadth and depth of experience of the skilled mediators in our department.”
The mediation-friendly department is anchored by two well-respected mediators, the Hon. Marie E. Lihotz, a retired presiding judge of the state’s appellate court and the former presiding judge of the family division in Burlington County and former State Bar Association Family Law Section Chairman William J. Thompson, Esq.
There have been so many areas of family law impacted by the pandemic. Custody and parenting time changes have been necessary due to remote school and work-from-home orders. Support has been impacted by job loss or income reductions. These realities have forced many divorcing or divorced couples back into tough conversations. In many cases, says Zane, “people have had to put personal differences aside to adjust to the reality that the pandemic caused. Archer has assisted many clients in navigating necessary modifications by consent without the need for protracted litigation—a time and cost-saving benefit that experience provides.”
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33 E. Euclid Ave.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 11 (February 2021).
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