Try Mediation When the Courthouse Is Closed
Ninety-five percent of divorces reach settlements before they would end up being decided by a judge in court. One way to end a divorce case without litigation is through mediation. COVID-19 may actually give divorcing couples a golden opportunity to use the mediation process to settle their divorce.
Family Law Cases Are Indefinitely Postponed
COVID-19 has closed the doors to the courthouse to every parent. Judges are not hearing cases in person, and there is no guarantee that two divorcing spouses can even get to the courthouse anytime in the near future. Even when courts open again, there is likely to be a large backlog in cases due to the number of legal actions that were put on hold when COVID-19 hit.
As a result, timelines for divorce have been pushed back indefinitely. If you are not in agreement on the issues, it is anyone’s guess when your divorce will actually be resolved. In other words, you are stuck in a holding pattern.
Even if you are willing to have a telephonic or video hearing, you may still have difficulty getting into court. Judges are reserving their time for pressing emergency matters and may not want to grant your divorce hearing right now.
With that in mind, you may be wondering if your divorce case is indefinitely frozen right now. In some ways, it may be stuck. However, there are things you can do to move the case forward even if you cannot get in front of a judge.
Mediate While You Wait for the Court to Reopen
One thing that you can do is hold mediation for your case while you wait for the courts to reopen. This is a way to have positive forward movement in your divorce. You can likely find a mediation or an arbitration service that is willing to help you during this time. Of course, they cannot issue a binding ruling in your case, but they can help narrow the gap on some of the issues that you are facing.
Mediation is an alternative to litigation that can keep your case moving during this time. Most mediations will be held over Zoom when a stay-at-home order is in effect. As these orders are lifted, you may be able to have an in-person mediation session.
In some respects, you may be able to use COVID-19 as a constructive pretext to hit the pause button and reassess where you are going. If the other spouse is willing to engage in mediation, this can actually be an opportunity to take a step back from the precipice and move your divorce back to a more amicable path.
Depending on the mediator you hire, you may even be able to get a sense of how your position would play out in front of a judge. If the trained mediator is a lawyer, you can learn how they would interpret New Jersey divorce law. Even though this would not be a binding ruling, you would know whether you are in a weak or strong position if you are unable to reach an agreement during the mediation session.
Mediation is not suitable for every type of divorce case. If the two parties are so deeply dug in that no amount of talking can make a difference, a Cherry Hill divorce lawyer would advise that it may be best to just wait to get back to the courthouse. However, if there is room to reach an agreement or if some talking can help bridge the differences between the two sides, then mediation may be suitable. At the very minimum, it is something that you can do in the short term to keep your case moving when the courthouse is closed for the foreseeable future. If you are able to settle or make progress on difficult issues, it is worth the money spent.
To learn more about the benefits that mediation can have for you, turn to our Cherry Hill divorce lawyer at Morgenstern & Rochester. Call us today at (856) 489-6200 to set up a consultation at our office in Cherry Hill.