April 21, 2020
Business As Unusual: How Matrimonial Matters Are Proceeding During The COVID Pandemic
Written by: Vito Colasurdo, Jr.
After a month of what I presume house arrest feels like (but without the ankle bracelet), life as we know it seems forever altered. Days feel like weeks, everyone is wearing a mask that makes them look like a doctor, ninja, or bank robber, and the only places open for business are grocery and hardware stores. Nothing is the same. And although the matrimonial practice has certainly changed, and in some instances slowed down, matrimonial matters are still proceeding, just in a different fashion.
New Jersey recently announced that Family Law documents can now be filed remotely through the Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) system. JEDS is a website that facilitates the submission of documents electronically to the New Jersey Courts. Previously, matrimonial filings were to be filed in hard copy form only. The electronic filing system enables document transmission remotely without risking COVID transmission through in person service of the document. So, if someone desired to commence a matrimonial proceeding during the pandemic, pleadings could be filed it through JEDS. It is yet to be seen whether the Courts will accept electronic filing once the COVID pandemic is over.
Those with pending divorces are engaging in mediation through video conferencing. Many mediators throughout New Jersey have had to become experts on video technology to best serve parties looking to amicably resolve their matter. Through the use of video conference breakout rooms, attorneys, clients, and mediators are able to discuss proposals and resolutions to bring a matter to settlement. As part of arbitrations, court reporters are logging in to capture the record of oral arguments or testimonial proceedings.
Judges are only hearing emergent matters in person. For the non-emergent issues, Judges have embraced the technology available to address them. Some judges have tried to litigate domestic violence trials through video conferencing. Additionally, judges, even those who have previously been reluctant to engage in telephonic phone conferences under any circumstance, are more willing to accommodate a telephone conference to assist in moving a matter forward or settling disputes that would have likely have been adjudicated through costly motion practice.
Similarly, Courts have relaxed discovery deadlines, and some court events, such as Matrimonial Early Settlement Panels, which have been either postponed or are being held via video conferencing.
For those whose divorce matters are concluding, measures have been taken to relax the requirements for notarization of documents. Although it is not required for a Property Settlement Agreement to be notarized to be valid and enforceable, having the document notarized by either an attorney or notary public is always preferred.
Although the practice has certainly been altered for the time being, the Family Law community remains working as hard as possible to move matters forward under the restrictions placed upon it as a result of the COVID pandemic.If you have any questions about any family law issues, Vito Colasurdo, Jr. can be reached at 732-631-8315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.