Jessie Frees of WMTR 1250 AM Radio Station’s host of Ask The Expert interviewed Jeralyn Lawrence. This is Part III of a five part series of transcripts from the radio interview with Jeralyn.
The following is a continuation of Jeralyn Lawrence’s interview with “Ask the Expert” host Jessie Frees on WMTR 1250 AM a station streaming live on wmtram.com and talkstreamlive.com.
Jess: How much does it cost today to get divorced?
Jeralyn: It all depends. Two people control how much a divorce costs and how long it takes, and those are the parties going through the divorce.
When they’re ready to settle and they’re ready to reach an agreement on all of their outstanding terms, they can get a divorce lawyer (who does not control how long a divorce takes or how much it costs.)
I can draft an agreement in two weeks. I can have you sign it. I file a complaint for divorce. Get it back 10 days from the court and hopefully get you divorced six to eight weeks thereafter
That’s how fast the process can happen. But it takes both parties to be able to agree on very important issues, custody, parenting time, alimony, equitable distribution.
Jess: How has the pandemic affected the divorce rate? Have you seen much of a change since the pandemic in people seeking a divorce?
Jeralyn: Well, when the pandemic first hit, back in March of 2020, what we were seeing was arguments over parenting time. One parent didn’t want to send the kids to parenting time because the other parent wasn’t adhering to CDC guidelines. Wasn’t quarantining, wasn’t wearing a mask, wasn’t doing any of the things that the CDC said. So, the other parent was withholding parenting time and then the other parent was getting upset. There were a lot of fights, in the beginning, having to do with parenting time.
We were very, very busy. Divorces were not so much. I mean, I was still doing a lot of consultations, mostly people sitting in their car, you know, because everyone was stuck at home quarantining together, so they had no free time. They were like running out to the store and their car, trying to get a divorce consultation, but we were predominantly dealing with custody and parenting time issues, and then that morphed into people losing their job.
We were dealing with, changes in circumstance as it pertained to child support or alimony, but really of late now, it’s been very busy with all of those things, plus divorce.
Jess: And of course, with the current economic situation today, too. That plays a part.
Jeralyn: It does, but I have to tell you, I mean, I saw this after 911 and I’m seeing it after this pandemic. People going through a stressful and traumatic event, like 911, like living through this pandemic, if we can remember how terrifying it was early on, see in their partner, either really good things or really bad things.
It becomes eye-opening for them. I mean, a lot of the talking heads after 911, we’re saying the divorce rates going to go down, people are going to see all the suffering that these families are enduring a 911 and people are going to stay together. I saw the exact opposite. People took stock in their life and they said, if this can happen to them and life is short and I want to be happy.
That’s the cornerstone of all of us. At the end of the day, we want to be happy and we want to be with people that make us happy. And if you’re stuck at home in a pandemic and the other spouse, isn’t helping with homeschooling getting the kids ready for the day. I mean, that was taxing on many parents having to manage work and their kids’ schooling. It became the straw that broke a lot of marriages back.
Jess: Divorce is a traumatic experience for anyone to go through, especially a child. What steps should be taken to ensure the smoothest transitions for a family?
Jeralyn: Just keep saying over and over to yourself that you have to leave the kids out of this. No matter how unhappy or upset you are with your spouse, don’t take it out on your kids. Don’t involve your kids. Don’t talk to your kids about your divorce. Don’t talk within earshot of the kids about your divorce.
No matter what, kids love both of their parents. They always will. It’s the best gift that any parent can get. The fact our kids just love us unconditionally, no matter what we do, generally speaking.
Jess: Do both parties usually agree to that or are there some that don’t.
Jeralyn: You hope so, and you hope that you’re part of the process that educates them to do that. Kids don’t deserve to carry the burden of their mom and dad’s divorce. As long as you can speak to your client about that and say, look, you’re hurting them.
If you’re going to talk bad about mom, talk bad about dad in front of the kids, that’s as painful as a smack in their face. If you can get them to understand that, and most do. Most don’t want to go out there and hurt their kids. No matter how upset they are, even if there’s infidelity.
So, you have to always bring it back to the kids. You want to leave them as stable and as happy as possible post-divorce. Most parents say they want that.
Jess: We’re talking to Jeralyn Lawrence managing member and founder of Lawrence Law Divorce and Family Attorneys, of Watchung, New Jersey.
Also named as one of New Jersey’s Best Lawyers for Families, in addition to a selection by her peers as one of New Jersey’s “Top 10 Matrimonial Lawyers under the age of 40”.
You have many accreditations to your credit. We’ll be right back with Jeralyn Lawrence.
We’re talking to Jeralyn Lawrence, managing member and founder of Lawrence Law, Divorce and Family Attorneys of Watchung, New Jersey, one of the best in New Jersey. Divorce and access to it are still happening, and a lot of it is done through Zoom. Tell us about the use of Zoom in divorce proceedings. Is this something new and how effective is it? Jeralyn.
Jeralyn- One thing for everybody to realize, the courts in New Jersey never closed, not for one. They were open from the first days of the pandemic, continuing through today. Big relief to many people needing court’s intervention or court’s assistance.
I was lucky, when I started my firm back in 2018, we had invested in all of the newest technology. As soon as the pandemic hit, we bought some Zoom licenses and everything transitioned online.
This has continued to this day. Meeting clients, mediating with clients’ litigation motions are all still happening on Zoom. The court is still operating, almost entirely on Zoom. Domestic violence trials are happening more so in person. Now this new variant, the Omicron has kind of slowed that down since the end of December through January, but most practitioners would like to see domestic violence trials stay in person for the bulk of the pandemic.
Prior to this recent variant, Domestic violence trials were happening on Zoom, complex matrimonial trials were happening. There was a way to share your screen and submit evidence prior to the trial.
Jeralyn: I think a lot of divorce lawyers would prefer if there were complex matrimonial trials with an abundance of exhibits and forensic accountants and a complicated testimony, we would prefer to be in person.
But Zoom has worked on so many levels on so many other case types. The judges are using it. They’re using Microsoft teams, a lot of our phone conferences as well, court stayed open throughout. So, that was a good thing for people that needed access to justice or access to relief.
Jess: Is it better not to be in the same room for the couple going through the divorce? And is it easier with childcare issues?
Jeralyn: My clients love Zoom. They’re able to see me during their lunch hour, they’re able to see me without having to pay for childcare. It’s been very convenient.
One of the most stressful things for anybody is that whole hurry up and wait; that’s what we were always seeing in court. Courts would bring in 30 cases a day, and if you weren’t the nine o’clock case, you were likely the one o’clock case you’re sitting there for hours.
Now, courts are doing such a great job of scheduling things incrementally. A nine o’clock case a 9:15 am case, a 9:30 am case. And you can be home, you know, at your kitchen table and dialing up the judge and your kids can be in the other room, or you haven’t missed much work at all. It’s been extremely client friendly. It’s been working.
Consult a New Jersey Family Lawyer
Divorce is a challenging emotional time. There is never a good time for a divorce. Schedule a consultation with one of our New Jersey family law attorneys who all specialize in divorce and family law at 908-645-1000 to learn how we can guide you through the emotional journey of divorce and related matters to a desired outcome and better place.