It’s no secret that the COVID pandemic has delayed all kinds of trials in NJ state courts. The courts were generally closed for the last two years and several counties either remain closed or are still holding trials via Zoom. In addition to COVID, the courts have a significant shortage of judges.

At the recent NJ State Bar Association Annual meeting (where my friend and colleague Jeralyn Lawrence was installed as State Bar President — congrats!), Chief Justice Stuart Rabner detailed how bad things are at the state courts. In a word, bad. There are 75 judicial vacancies in the state court system and many cases will take 3-4 years to reach a trial.

When the courts have resource constraints, most existing resources are given to the criminal part. Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to a speedy trial. Plus their liberties are at stake. Some may be denied bail while awaiting their trial. Civil parts of the court are often given the least resources (read: judge’s time). Civil cases are generally about money, which typically doesn’t have an expiration date.

Family cases also have time-sensitive elements, such as custody issues or domestic violence orders. Unless emergent, even those cases are being delayed in many counties. Regular divorce trials, especially without children, are often delayed indefinitely.

Mediation and arbitration can help resolve your divorce or family case fairly, rapidly and inexpensively. Even a simple divorce that is delayed can create numerous problems for the spouses. Lack of a divorce prevents someone from re-marrying or just moving on with their life without being emotionally and financially tethered to their spouse. Just because there is no imminent trial, it doesn’t mean that the level of costs and stress are lower. Discovery, which is usually the most costly part of litigation, still continues in the hopes of a trial.

To find out more about how mediation or arbitration can help resolve your divorce or family law issue, please contact me.