With the NJ Family Court Backlog, Arbitration or Mediation May be the Better Course for Divorce and Family Law Matters

Judge vacancies in New Jersey due to judicial retirements are at an all-time high, with nearly 22% of judgeships vacant (with a 15% vacancy rate among NJ Superior Court judges). In fact, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner told the New Jersey State Bar Association in May that there are 75 vacancies on the trial court bench out of 433 trial court positions. Judge Rabner noted that there should be no more than 25 or 30 vacancies “for the Judiciary to be able to best serve the public.” The Supreme Court has since filled 9 vacancies; however, many more remain.

This is exacerbated by significant staff vacancies, a judicial nomination process that has not kept pace, and the court backlog from the COVID-19 pandemic. There is now a wait of up to four years to schedule a family court trial in New Jersey.

For families, this situation can create emotional and financial harm. Many may be stewing in the contentious home environment of a difficult pending divorce; others have funds tied up in the litigation, forcing them to make tough decisions about funding their retirement plans or saving for the post-divorce home.

No cases scheduled in many NJ county courts

According to Jeralyn L. Lawrence, president of the New Jersey State Bar Association, divorce trials are completely absent from the court calendars in Atlantic, Cape May, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Warren counties. In Bergen, Monmouth and Sussex counties, it could take six months from filing the first motion until a divorce trial is scheduled.

This backlog issue is so serious that Assemblyman Joseph Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic) introduced a bill to allow more retired judges to return temporarily to the bench, to prevent further delays to family and civil trials in Bergen County. In Essex County, where our office is located, there are currently 6,670 cases pending across all family court dockets.

Alternatives to NJ divorce court: arbitration and mediation

Rather than placing their lives on hold for the long term, litigants involved in family law matters—especially those in high-conflict divorces, custody battles or with pressing personal issues that require faster resolution—can choose two alternate routes: arbitration or mediation. Both methods are more expedient; cases can be resolved within months and save couples on court fees and the expense of retaining attorneys for such a protracted period of time.

Benefits of divorce/family law arbitration in NJ

In arbitration, a judge (usually retired) or a family law attorney experienced in this area act as the arbitrators. The arbitrator—in the role of a judge—is a neutral third party that hears both sides of the matter and makes a ruling. While arbitrators follow the rule of law, they are hearing the case outside of the courts, so divorcing couples can avoid a trial, maintain a higher level of confidentiality, and the process is less formal. The parties agree on a set schedule to meet for a specified amount of time to discuss all the issues. It is also less expensive than going to trial, because the process can be tailored to the parties’ specific circumstances.

The divorcing couple can choose either binding or non-binding arbitration which will impact the parties’ ability to appeal.

Benefits of divorce/family law mediation in NJ

Mediation is more flexible and allows for more creative solutions since a judge is not involved and allows the parties to cultivate a resolution. Further, it is not a legally binding process. The mediator—who is typically a family law attorney or retired judge—serves as a facilitator for the divorcing couple, who come to agreements about custodial arrangements, parenting time, division of property, alimony, child support, and other related matters.

The family law attorneys representing both parties advise clients on types of settlements that are available to them and fair, and the implications of these potential settlements to spouses and children. Ultimately, the couple—guided by the mediator—decides how to move forward by mutual agreement.

Mediation is used by many New Jersey couples before, during and even after they divorce, in cases where they plan to file for uncontested divorce but need to work out issues of spousal and child support, and division of marital property and debts. Even if they end up in a New Jersey family law court, a judge may recommend the couple enter mediation to settle custody or financial disputes.

NJ family law attorney

At [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″], we understand how difficult even the most amicable divorce can sometimes be. We offer alternative dispute resolution, as well as court representation in divorce proceedings and all family law matters to bring about the best outcomes for you and your family.

2021’s tragic accident figures raise concerns

Drivers may travel many of the same routes for years without any near misses, much less accidents. Don’t assume any New Jersey commutes come without risks, as vehicle collisions could happen anywhere at any time. 2021’s statistics involved an alarming increase in traffic deaths, and those figures reflect a trend that may not subside by 2022’s end.

The deadly statistics of 2021

Understanding the deadly accident wave of 2021 may require looking at the 2020 landscape. 2020 proved to be an unusual year due to many unexpected factors that led to fewer drivers on the road. For some, a reduced number of drivers led them to engage in speeding and other moving violations, practices not safe under any circumstances. When 2020 turned into 2021, a segment of drivers let their reckless behaviors on the road continue, leading to increased fatalities.

Of course, many drivers didn’t need any prompting from 2020’s unique situation. Whether someone engages in one-time reckless driving or is a habitual offender, an unsafe driver could cause a crash.

2021 saw many crashes that left people dead. Government agencies noted that the year saw nearly 43,000 people die in traffic accidents, a shocking figure. While not wearing seat belts played a role in some fatal collisions, negligent drivers contributed significantly to the statistics.

Negligence behind the wheel

Speeding receives a fair share of the blame for the increased fatalities, which is unsurprising. Speeding is dangerous under all circumstances since it could cause an accident or make it challenging to avoid one.

Lane-splitting and making numerous land changes without turn signals are other behaviors that open doors to personal injury lawsuits. Truthfully, any moving violation known for putting oneself and others in jeopardy may present the same legal risks.

Hopefully, someone’s misguided behavior behind the wheel won’t cause a fatal accident. However, even a minor accident comes with a potential legal fallout. Accident victims who suffer only property damage, such as a wrecked rear fender, would likely want compensation for their losses.

The 100 deadliest days of summer and teenage drivers

In New Jersey and around the country, the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is often referred to as the 100 deadliest days of summer. During this time, there is a dramatic increase in the number of teenage vehicle crashes and fatalities.

More than 7000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents involving teenage drivers from 2010 through 2019 during the period, and many believe that parents are the first line of defense to prevent this from happening to their teenagers. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you have a teen who will be driving this summer.

Understanding the cause

Researchers have discovered the main cause of teen motor vehicle accidents is distracted driving. Texting while driving and talking on a cell phone can certainly be a factor in distracted driving. However, studies show that most teenage driver distraction comes from other passengers. Interestingly, 15% of crashes involving teens were caused by distractions from passengers verses 12% caused by cell phone usage while driving.

Educating your teen driver

Parents must continually remind their young drivers of the dangers of distracted driving and of the responsibility they have as drivers to protect others. Caution teenagers to never touch their cell phones while driving and to concentrate on speed limits and highway laws. Remember, teenagers might not be capable of fully understanding the risk they take to themselves and others when they get behind the wheel. It is up to the parents to help them take their responsibility as a driver as seriously as possible.

Be the best example possible

Your children pay attention to how you conduct yourself behind the wheel. Therefore, it is important that you take steps to prevent an automobile accident by not using your cell phone and by paying attention to your surroundings while driving.

It is also important to offer reassurance to your children that you will pick them up if they have been drinking, or that you will be there to help them if they experience a mechanical issue with their car. Giving your teenager the confidence to know they can rely on you for help can go a long way in preventing a deadly accident.

Remote Work Policy Essentials for Employers

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers are opting to allow their employees to work remotely.  To avoid potential liability, employers who choose to implement a remote work policy must ensure that the policy is administered in a manner that complies with applicable anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws.  The following should be included in remote work policies implemented by employers:

  • Eligibility: Depending on the nature of the employer’s business as well as the employee’s job functions, an employer may not be able to make all of its employees eligible for remote work.  Therefore, a remote work policy should include eligibility criteria.  Eligibility should be based on objective criteria, such as job duties or years of service with the employer.
  • Compliance with Existing Company Policies: The remote work policy should make it clear that all existing company policies still apply to employees who are working remotely.
  • Set Work Expectations: The policy should make clear that employees need to be accessible during regular work hours and that employees must follow their normal work schedules.
  • Equipment: The policy should set forth what equipment, if any, that will be supplied by the employer (i.e., laptop, printer, etc.).  The policy should state that any such equipment is to be used for business purposes only.  The policy should also state what equipment, if any, that must be maintained by the employee, and should make clear that the employer is not liable for any damage to equipment maintained by the employee.
  • Protection of Confidential and Proprietary Information: The policy should set forth that remote employees are expected to protect confidential and proprietary information belonging the employer, including the use of locked file cabinets and desks, and regular password maintenance.
  • Compensation: The policy should state that there will be no changes to employee salaries for working remotely. Any salary adjustments should be made in accord with the employer’s regular course of business.

If you have any questions about remote work policies and/or need assistance with any remote work issues, please contact Curcio Mirzaian Sirot LLC.

* Frank A. Custode, Esq. is a Partner of Curcio Mirzaian Sirot and the Chair of the firm’s Employment Practice.

Pedestrian safety to be a focus after 2021 fatality report

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) accident reports for 2021 overall have not been positive. Not only have the number of accidents and motorist death rates increased, but all accident numbers were up across the board, including in New Jersey where many people in urban areas use public transportation, walk to their destinations or use some form of alternate transportation such as bicycles or scooters.

The problem by the numbers

Just as reflected in the NHTSA report regarding overall traffic fatalities on the highways in 2021, pedestrian fatalities increased at an exponential 10.5% from 2020 levels. This is the largest increase since 2005. Additionally, it is the highest since the agency began tracking such statistics in 1975. These reports do not include personal injury claims, which could be even higher.

Plan of action

While the NHTSA is specifically a statistics bureau for maintaining traffic safety records, the GHSA actually sets forth a plan of action when troubling issues like this are brought to public view. Officials from the GHSA have stated that this number of fatal injuries is unacceptable and that states such as New Jersey should take a proactive stance in improving pedestrian safety in all areas. According to the GHSA’s executive director, the first step should be identifying the root causes of these accidents.

Not included in the numbers was how much traffic has increased from 2020 to 2021 as states lifted restrictions regarding public movement after the health emergency. The GHSA’s suggestion is that communities should focus on pedestrian safety as much as traffic flow when they design new roads and improve intersection safety.

Ups and downs of running a family business

Family-owned businesses make up a majority of the world’s businesses. Thousands of people operate businesses with their family members in New Jersey. There are major benefits along with disadvantages to consider when pursuing this venture.

Natural leadership

Every family has one or two natural leaders who make the most important decisions, pay the property’s bills and provide personal advice to each member. There is a hierarchy of leadership that is assigned from ascending to descending ages. The parent or guardian is the top leader followed by older relatives, the older children and the younger children. As a result, running a family business is easier when this hierarchy has already been set.

Commitment

Hiring family members is very different from hiring regular employees. The process is more informal, and many of your family members have other jobs and social lives. They may show less loyalty and commitment to running the business than professionals that are hired outside of the family.

Lack of compliance

Your family needs to understand that the law is above everyone’s actions, thoughts and desires. Your family member is a paid employee who must understand and follow every business law in the state and country.

Close proximity

A family business can be located in the family home. Your relatives will live in close proximity to the business’s clients and the equipment that are needed to perform their jobs.

Conflicts within family

Families are more likely to quarrel than employees and coworkers. Family members have to invest more time, energy and money in each other. They are more likely to run into conflicts that go back for years.

The family business is one of the most important sources of income for a nation’s economy. Working with family members brings a strong sense of familiarity and loyalty. On the other hand, you face more serious conflicts that could divide the family members for a long time. Overall, there are more benefits than disadvantages of having this type of business.

What are some common examples of dental malpractice?

Many people in New Jersey know about medical malpractice, but dental malpractice is something that’s spoken about less often. Certain types are common.

What is dental malpractice?

Dental malpractice is similar to medical malpractice but involves improper dental treatment. If you suffer harm from a dentist or other dental professional due to negligence or significantly subpar treatment, you have the right to file a claim for damages. Dental professionals are required to provide an expected standard of care. If a dentist or other dental professional fails to live up to that duty, you are entitled to fight back.

What are examples of dental malpractice?

There are different examples of dental malpractice that could leave a person with injuries. One of the most serious is if a dentist fails to diagnose oral cancer or gum disease. These conditions are treatable and sometimes reversible. A lack of diagnosis or one that comes too late can be devastating.

Improper tooth extraction occurs due to negligence. If a patient needs a specific tooth removed but the dentist removes the wrong one or damages nerves, it can have serious consequences. Nerve damage can lead to constant pain and the need for continuous treatment, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Many dental procedures require a person to undergo anesthesia to numb the area being treated. If a complication arises due to a counteraction with the patient’s medical history, it can cause serious injuries and possibly even death. If a patient dies, their surviving family members could sue for dental malpractice and wrongful death.

Dental infections can seriously injure patients. If the infection is not properly or promptly treated, it can lead to serious injuries such as abscesses and even sepsis. Patients can suffer horrible pain and end up dying if the infections are not reversed in time.

Conflicts about New Jersey litigation finance disclosures

In all states, laws require buyers and sellers to follow certain disclosure obligations in monetary transactions. These obligations sometimes extend to plaintiffs and defendants in lawsuits. However, New Jersey laws are sparking a new debate about the importance of providing financial disclosure about specific cases versus protecting privacy.

Conflicts with disclosure rules

New Jersey litigants claim that the federal courts want them to be too open about their financial affairs. A rule requires plaintiffs to inform their opponents whenever they receive third-party investment funds to cover the costs of their lawsuits.

Filed complaints

Litigation finance companies have filed complaints that the proposed rule is unfair since it requires plaintiffs to disclose information about their litigation finances. In reply, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated that the proposal was necessary to promote business litigation that is fair, ethical and transparent.

In previous cases, the disclosure of funding has not been a question. The judges may decide to ignore a request from the other party to acquire information about litigation finance. They often rule the information as protected or irrelevant to resolving the litigation. If the New Jersey federal court approves the recommended rule, both legal parties have to disclose the source of their funds, the type of funds and whether or not the funding is essential to winning the case.

The costs of litigation

A proposed rule requires that a financial disclosure should provide information about funds that are used to cover litigation. The federal courts may require the disclosure of information; however, it’s not always guaranteed that the disclosure is necessary and helpful for any side to win its case.

Understanding due diligence in M&A transactions

It is not unusual for businesses in New Jersey to be sold, bought or merged with others. When two businesses decide to merge, it is important that the owners do their due diligence and investigate the other company thoroughly. This may help them avoid any potential problems down the road.

What is due diligence?

Due diligence is the process of investigating a potential business transaction thoroughly. This may include looking at the financials, reviewing contracts and talking to employees. In many mergers and acquisitions, due diligence is conducted by both parties before they agree to move forward with the deal.

Why is due diligence important?

Firstly, due diligence may help you avoid many potential issues with the other company. For example, if you are buying a company, you will want to make sure that there are no hidden debts or liabilities that could come back to haunt you later on. Secondly, due diligence can give you a better understanding of the other company and what you’re getting yourself into. This may help you negotiate a better deal or price.

Lastly, in some cases, you may be legally required to conduct due diligence. For example, if you are a public company, the Securities and Exchange Commission has rules that require you to disclose certain information about any potential business transactions per corporate law provisions.

How do you conduct due diligence?

There are many ways to conduct due diligence, but it generally involves doing some research on the other company and talking to employees, customers and other stakeholders. To get started, you can look at the other company’s website, customer reviews and financial reports.

You could even talk to the company’s suppliers to get their perspectives on the company. Your aim is to get as much information about the other company as possible so that you can make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the transaction.

Overall, due diligence is an important part of any M&A transaction. If you are thinking about buying, selling or merging your business, be sure to do your homework first and investigate the other company thoroughly. It could save you a lot of headaches down the road, such as hidden debts or legal problems.

Resolving construction disputes in New Jersey

No one ever starts a construction project expecting things to go wrong. But when they do, it’s important to have a plan for how to resolve construction disputes.

How do construction disputes typically arise?

There are a number of ways construction disputes can arise, and one of the most common is a disagreement over the terms of a contract. Another common issue is damage to property or construction delays. Other disputes can include disagreements over the quality of construction and change orders.

How should you handle construction disputes?

If you find yourself in the midst of a construction dispute, it’s important to take action quickly. There are several dispute resolution methods that you can explore, which include mediation. In construction disputes, mediators can help the parties come to an agreement that is fair and beneficial to all involved. Arbitration, on the other hand, is a more formal process in which a neutral third party hears both sides of the dispute and makes a ruling.

If you are unable to resolve the dispute through mediation or arbitration, you may need to pursue construction litigation. This can be a long and costly process, but it may be your only option if the other parties are not willing to negotiate.

Preparing for litigation

First, make sure you have all the relevant documentation, including contracts, invoices and emails. Depending on the nature of your case, you may also need to retain an expert witness.

This can be costly, but it may be worth it to have someone on your side who can help prove your case. Additionally, make sure you are familiar with the law and your rights in construction disputes. For instance, you may be able to recover damages if the construction project caused you financial losses.

Resolving construction disputes can be difficult, but it is important to take action quickly and make sure you are prepared for litigation if necessary. By understanding the dispute resolution methods available to you and having the right documentation, you can increase your chances of achieving a favorable outcome.