Made the decision to get a divorce in NJ in 2022? Divorce best practices are constantly changing, and this year is no exception. What should you watch out for as you begin the divorce process? Find out three key changes that affect divorce in New Jersey in 2022.
In-person court could resume for some divorces
In New Jersey, family courts have been virtual since March of 2020 due to the pandemic. In 2022, this is changing for some family law matters.
The NJ Supreme Court, in a recent order signed by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner outlined changes for virtual court proceedings. Going forward in 2022, this is what you can expect:
Family law-related matters that will generally be presumed to be in-person in 2022 include:
- All evidentiary hearings related to juvenile delinquency matters;
- Sentencing hearings in any family law or juvenile delinquency matter;
- Termination of parental rights trials;
- Hearings related to appointing a permanent guardian;
- Trials to establish Final Restraining Orders;
- Appeals matters and Supreme Court arguments; and
- Any matter in which participants have demonstrated an inability to proceed in a virtual format.
Divorce and family law-related matters that will generally remain virtual in 2022 include:
- Uncontested divorces;
- Uncontested adoptions;
- Hearings to establish or modify child support;
- Applications for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and initial conferences;
- Initial applications for protection under the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act;
- Parent education conferences; and
- Mediations (except for Intensive Settlement Conferences).
The order from the NJ Supreme Court further states that judges have it in their discretion to determine whether to conduct court proceedings virtually or in person.
What does this mean for your divorce?
For many divorcing spouses, the ability to conduct their divorce proceedings virtually has saved time and money. The new order allows for uncontested divorce to remain virtual. However, a contested divorce that require multiple hearings in Court appears to fall into a gray area. If all parties agree to be virtual, this may be acceptable for proceeding with online hearings.
Is settling your matter in a virtual setting something you would prefer? Explore uncontested divorce and divorce mediation as possible settlement alternatives. Mediation is a great tool because it can be used to settle even thorny/high conflict issues related to child custody and assets.
Pandemic-proof your divorce
We’ve now been living through a pandemic for almost two years. During that time, many of us have made profound changes in our lives as a direct response to Covid-19. As you go to get a divorce, it’s critical to highlight to the courts any temporary/emergency measures you’ve had to put in place so they don’t become permanently written into your divorce agreement.
For example, if you work at a busy hospital and decided to live in an apartment close to work while your spouse stayed with the kids in the family home as a way to reduce your family’s risk for Covid, clearly explain this arrangement to the courts. Otherwise, you’re at risk for your spouse claiming, “They barely even see their own kids! They don’t even live in the home!” Out of context, these kinds of statements can be damning. In a worst case scenario, you could get limited parenting time with your children if the courts mistakenly view the past few years of reduced contact time as the “status quo.” Describe any changes like this over the past few years that are a direct result of Covid-19.
You can also future-proof your child custody agreements by including a clause to cover what happens should a future public health emergency close schools and create other disruptions. How will you split supervision of your children if they need virtual schooling? What happens if either of you gets sick and can’t care for your children? How will you replace missed parenting time due to travel restrictions? Get your plans in writing.
Covid can also impact your finances. Let’s stay your spouse runs a business and that business was shut down for several months in 2020 and then could only run at limited capacity until Covid measures lifted. When it comes to calculating alimony or child support, judges may need to look back for a few more years, or longer if needed, to get a true sense of how much the business makes during “normal times.” If you know or suspect your ex’s rocky business lately has been a result of Covid-19, let your attorney know.
Consider the hot real estate market. Act sooner rather than later!
If you think that selling the family home will be part of your divorce, you may want to get this process underway sooner rather than later to take advantage of the strong seller’s market to get top dollar. For those not quite sure about whether or not to sell or fight to keep the home, read our blog: Divorce Dilemma: Can I Afford To Keep The House? If selling right away is a good fit for your situation, get an agreement in writing with your spouse to outline the plan. Your attorney can help you with this. Get more tips here: How to Sell Your Home in a Divorce.
Have questions about your 2022 NJ divorce? Start safeguarding yourself today by scheduling a strategy session with one of our seasoned family law attorneys. Get answers to all your questions and a concrete action plan. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the button below.