With the New Jersey Court system still ironing the kinks out of what it means to conduct court virtually during a pandemic, Ron Lieberman suggests following the commonsense tips below:
The current pandemic has thrown a proverbial “monkey wrench” into the court system. Family lawyers are getting new information day by day about how procedures and issues are being handled. Until our Chief Justice can figure out just how things will work, family lawyers need to tell their clients that, for all intents and purposes, and for the immediate future, the attorneys are on their own.
1. Be reasonable
No judge may be coming to your rescue, so work it out. That’s not to say to say at all that a judge won’t be coming eventually. The court may very well take into account one parties bad faith or disregard of current Court Orders. The AAML and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts put out seven recommendations that all revolve around a theme of kindness and mindfulness. (https://bit.ly/3a6Ikf7)
2. Get whatever help you can
You may be able to find a parenting coordinator who will take new clients in an emergency. Note that these professionals typically charge $200 to $400 per hour, but some will work on a sliding scale. Your attorney or the local county bar association should have online resources. You can also consult a therapist or lean on family members for your own anxiety. Make sure to get information from reliable resources during the pandemic criss when making decisions about parenting time.
You do not need to pay a lawyer to hash out little changes to your parenting plan. Anything you mutually agree on is fine, you just need to write it down. It can simply be an email that says, just to confirm, I’m picking up Johnny at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at your house and you will come get him from my house the following Sunday at 3 p.m. Document everything.
4. Agree on your family bubble
You have every right to ask how many people your ex-partner or spouse has in his/her social chain over the course of this situation. Do your best again to go by suggestion number 1 – be reasonable.
5. This is not a free for all.
If you have a Marital Settlement Agreement in place or other Court Order, you will be expected to follow these documents. If you deviate, your co-parent is not going to be very happy and may have a legitimate reason to take you back to court. If your co-parent files a motion and the judge finds you acted in bad faith, you may be assessed to pay their counsel fees and sanctions. Sometimes things are not clear and when they are not, consulting your attorney is a good idea.
Ronald Lieberman, Esq. is a partner and shareholder at ALBFR&M in Haddonfield, New Jersey. If you have any questions or family law issues, contact Mr. Lieberman at 856-428-8334, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.