By Carolyn Daly, Esq., Founder and Managing Partner of Daly & Associates, LLC
Since the pandemic began, the backlog on cases in the New Jersey court system have more than doubled. Judge Glenn A. Grant, the administrative director of the state’s court system, told the New Jersey Legislature in April of this year that a perfect storm was about to thrash New Jersey between the effects of the pandemic and the vacancies on the trial bench in New Jersey. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner recently described the “rate of vacancy on the trial bench in New Jersey as ‘unsustainable’ and the equivalent to losing 90 years of judge time,” in a state of the judiciary speech in May, as reported by State Bar President Domenick Carmagnola, Esq. By May of last year, the Administrative Office of the Courts, which monitors this data, reported that the backlog in non-dissolution family part cases grew by 531%, from 502 cases in May 2019 to 3,170 by May of 2020 and the backlog of domestic violence cases statewide increased from 231 in May of 2019 to 1,370 in May of 2020. In divorce cases, the backlogs grew 70%, from 1,185 cases in May of 2019 to 2,016 in May of 2020. So, how does a person looking to get divorced, or to resolve a post-judgment divorce case, custody, alimony, child support or other family law case get to a resolution? How can you avoid being stuck in this backlog?
The answer is simple: by mediating or arbitrating the dispute. This can be done by videoconferencing utilizing the Zoom platform which will continue to allow people to miss less work, or time with their children as things open up again.
You probably know what mediation and arbitration are, but if you don’t, visit https://dalyfamilylaw.net/mediation/ for an explanation of those two alternate dispute resolution options.
Here is how most attorneys mediate and\or arbitrate by videoconferencing:
- First we set a date for the mediation or arbitration that works for all parties, working around everyone’s schedule. Our office sends a Zoom invitation to appear on the date set.
- Counsel and each of the parties accepts the invitation for the Zoom meeting.
- On the date set, our office, as the host, starts the mediation and each counsel and each party join the videoconference from a desktop or laptop computer, an iPad or iPhone or even just by phone if that is all they have available. If you join by any method, other than just by phone, you should join with video and with audio so that everyone can be seen and heard
- Following introductory remarks about the process we are engaging in that day, we will typically meet with the attorneys in a breakout room first and put the participants back in the waiting room.
- After meeting with the attorneys to address preliminary issues, we will then bring everyone back into the conference again.
- If we are mediating, we will break out each side into a breakout room and then we can go from room to room to mediate as we try to help the parties reach a resolution. For the most part, the parties will not work directly with each other, so if you don’t want to see the other side, you don’t have to. Instead, the mediator will go back and forth between breakout rooms.
- If we are arbitrating, everyone stays in the main room and we can have a court reporter join in the process or the Zoom session can be recorded for transcription later. Any witnesses can be sent an invitation as well and be in the waiting room, ready to testify, as the arbitration proceeds.
- In either process, we can share documents by sharing the screen or by email. Documents can also be pre-marked and sent to everyone via courier or mail or even electronic delivery – drop box or otherwise.
- In mediation, the mediator can be working on the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) or other document memorializing any resolution as the mediation proceeds.
- In arbitration, the arbitrator can be keeping notes and has access to the recordings of sessions so as to review testimony when they are working on their decision which can then be emailed to the parties and\or counsel.
At least in Morris County we are being told that even if you case is settled, it will be a few months until a hearing can be settled to enter your divorce and that trials are being scheduled out two years. My goal at Daly & Associates is to resolve even the most complicated cases within a matter of months, not years through mediation and/or arbitration.
View a list of AAML NJ Certified arbitrators.