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“Shelter-in-place” Orders and Divorce During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

“Shelter-in-place” Orders Impact the Amount of Divorce Cases in 2020

For those living in a struggling marriage, the stress exacerbated by “shelter-in-place” orders can be the tipping point.

"Shelter-in-place" Orders Impact the Amount of Divorce Cases in 2020For the people of New Jersey and around the world, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has greatly affected our daily lives. We have never experienced anything like it, and the uncertainty created by global shutdowns, unemployment, and people buying bathroom tissue by the pallet, leaves our nerves frayed.

New Jersey Courts continue to provide the same services as always to New Jersey people but in a virtual setting. The Family Court is backlogged and overwhelmed with cases, despite holding hearings remotely.  Approximately 10 to 15% of judges and staff are working on site.  Other than judges and staff, only attorneys and public members who have scheduled court matters or appointments are permitted in the buildings. Those who have scheduled court matters or an appointment must wear a mask in the building and must maintain 6 feet of distance from others wherever possible. Judges and other court staff work from home and conduct remote hearings and conferences remotely via telephone or videoconference. All forms and applications can be found online and submitted remotely to get the process started.

Are There Any Other Options?

Yes, read on to see three alternatives to resolving your divorce agreement.


Mediation is the process in which a trained neutral person, called a mediator, facilitates the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. Mediation is non-adversarial to help the parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation aims to have the parties, in the case of Divorce Mediation, the husband and wife, walk away with an agreement they find acceptable, an agreement that will allow the parties to continue to co-parent their children if children are involved. This will enable the children to be happy and healthy with both parents’ continued involvement despite the divorce. The goal is also to maximize both parties’ financial security after the divorce. The decision to mediate already saves thousands of dollars in attorney and expert fees. The average mediated case takes about 3-5 sessions of between 1-2 hours each. Many cases are resolved in just one session, and others may take longer. Each case is unique. There may be evaluations or appraisals needed, tax advice, or other areas requiring other professionals’ special attention, but the goal is to keep moving forward to resolve all issues.


Arbitration involves a third-party arbitrator who acts as a judge and makes final rulings regarding key divorce issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and equitable distribution of marital assets. Arbitration preserves the benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution. The “judge” is a privately hired attorney or retired Judge, often selected by the parties, and all discussions and negotiations take place privately and outside of a courtroom. This process lends itself to couples resolving their divorce in a much more cost-effective, efficient, and private forum. However, unlike mediation, the final decision-making authority is vested in the arbitrator rather than the parties.

Collaborative Law

With a collaborative law divorce, you create opportunities for an amicable divorce. Low-cost strategies are made possible through effective consultation time and a plan to create a no fight divorce resolution for all parties involved. Regardless of your situation, it is possible to reach an agreement that is in accord with your family values, preserves both parties’ relationships with the children involved in the situation, and often, even with each other, long after your divorce is final.

There are many benefits to a collaborative divorce. First, a collaborative attorney can help you and your spouse achieves a long-lasting, mutually agreeable, and affordable resolution that is a product of your own decisions. When working with a collaborative attorney, all of your meetings are private and confidential, as opposed to traditional divorce litigation, where all documents are public records. Collaborative family law focuses on all involved parties reaching a mutually agreed-upon settlement of their disputes. The process results in invaluable benefits, such as the ability to continue communicating with your spouse for the children’s benefit after your divorce.

The concept of collaborative law is where you and your attorney and your spouse and his/her attorney work together as a team to find the places of agreement and hash out the trouble spots.  There is only one caveat to collaborative family law, and that is that if either party backs out of the agreement/discussion and opts for a hearing in court, he/she is obligated to hire a new attorney. The requirement that all lawyers be disqualified in the event of a breakdown guarantees that all participating counsel and the litigants will be totally motivated and committed to ensuring that the process is successful. Thus, all participants are equally devoted to crafting solutions to all of the outstanding issues.

What Should You Do Now?

You must not make any decisions before contacting a lawyer.  At Jacobs Bergerr, LLC, we are here to help you through this difficult process.  Your unique needs and concerns are our priority.  Our years of experience and knowledge can bring you comfort in knowing your future is in the best of hands.

To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced team member today regarding your case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 710-4366.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.