I was recently quoted in a New Jersey Law Journal article about COVID-19’s impact on family law. The article is entitled, State Court Filings Drop 20% as Judges, Lawyers Cope with COVID-19 Disruptions. While the article discussed court filings statewide, my quotes focused on New Jersey’s Family Division. The article says that Family Division filings declined by 26.5% from last year. Further, it states that divorces and child custody cases involving married parents declined 24.4%, disputes involving unmarried couples declined by 33.4%, termination of parental rights declined by 29%, and domestic violence cases declined by 14.2%.
These numbers do not surprise me as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all our lives. With people trapped at home without privacy, it is difficult to communicate with an attorney. In fact, I have clients calling me when from the car when they are out running errands to speak about their relationship problems.
I think there is also confusion as to the courts even being open. The courts have not closed due to the pandemic. They have been, and continue to be, handling all sorts of family law matters. While there is a limitation of in-person court appearances, the courts continue to operate using technology.
This paragraph from the article resonates with me. One change in the way that family law is practiced, which could be behind the reduction in filings, is that lawyers seem to be focusing on settlements before filing their cases, instead of filing first and then trying to work out resolutions. I have always thought, and try to practice, that it is in the client’s best interest to try to resolve issues in the most efficient way. Efficient in both financial and emotional terms.
Hopefully, COVID-19’s impact on family law will soon be behind us. In the meantime, our firm is open. Courts are open. Please call me if you have any questions or family law needs.