Wondering how divorce law has changed in New Jersey in recent years? Worried about facing divorce during the pandemic?
I talked with Bill Rudnik, a divorce attorney operating out of Clinton NJ, about recent changes in family law and their impact on divorced families.
Bill also explains how divorce cases are being handled during quarantine and offers some guidance to married couples who are struggling at this time.
HHNJ: Hi Bill, it’s great to have you here today. Tell me first about your practice in Clinton. What would you say is the most rewarding part of being a NJ divorce lawyer?
Bill: What I find most rewarding is helping people get through a difficult and emotional process. Having practiced family law for over twenty (20) years, and having been divorced myself, I am confident that I can help guide my clients through this process. I can also assure them their life will improve once the stress of the divorce process is concluded.
In addition, most of the family law attorneys in New Jersey are reasonable and focused on trying to resolve cases, which makes the practice itself less stressful than it would be otherwise.
HHNJ: Different divorce lawyers have different ways of handling things. Describe your general approach to family law. What’s the ultimate outcome that you strive for and help your clients work through during divorce?
Bill: My goal in every divorce case is to settle the case as fairly as possible, as quickly and efficiently as possible, while spending as little as possible on attorney’s fees.
While it is not always possible to settle cases in a quick and efficient manner, that is the goal. As part of that goal, I need to manage the client’s expectations to make sure they are being reasonable. I need to determine not only the other parties’ position, but what is driving that position.
Settling cases is about compromise: getting your client the most important things they want while giving the other party some of what they want in order to get them to settle. While certain cases require a judge to make decisions, nearly all cases should settle as long as both parties take a reasonable position.
The ultimate outcome is a settlement early in the case and a settlement which is fair under the circumstances. The goal is to reach a settlement that did not result from stressful litigation and did not cost tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees.
HHNJ: Divorce can be scary for people going through it for the first time, and laws have changed in recent years. The weekend dad is becoming a thing of the past. How are modern-day divorces being handled, especially between co-parents? What advice would you offer?
Bill: In most modern-day divorce cases, both parents are actively involved in their children’s lives. While the parenting schedules range from equal parenting time schedules to the majority of the parenting time being with one parent, both parents are involved in decision making. Both parties have access to information and both are involved in guiding their children and supporting their activities.
The research has shown that children of divorce who are well adjusted, have the fewest incidents of depression and are happy and successful in life, are from divorce situations where their parents were able to communicate and co-parent effectively.
While divorced parents do not have to be best friends, they do need to be civil to each other and respect each other’s roles as parents of their child.
Co-parenting is not always easy and it does not necessarily require parents to agree on everything. But there should be compromise by both parties, just like there is in settling their divorce case.
HHNJ: Some marriages are reaching the breaking point during quarantine. Would you say you have been busy taking new cases?
Bill: Marriages that were under stress before the pandemic have become worse during this period. In addition to the stress of the pandemic itself and being stuck inside for many months, the pandemic brought about financial uncertainty that adds to stress on the marriage.
There has been an increase in business although it is difficult to determine whether it is due to the stress of the pandemic itself, or simply related to parties holding off in filing for divorce during the early months of the pandemic.
Wondering How Marital Assets are Divided in Divorce? NJ Attorney Bill Rudnik, Esq. Explains in This Video:
HHNJ: What would you suggest to a couple considering divorce but not really sure where to go next with their marital issues?
Bill: If the parties are able to communicate and they are both in agreement that they need to proceed with a divorce, they should look at the alternatives available. These include mediation and collaborative divorce. It is also always a good idea for each party to get their own legal advice in a divorce situation even in cases where the parties attend mediation.
If the parties agree to attend mediation, or proceed with a collaborative divorce, these are very successful methods in resolving cases as long as both parties are on board with the process.
I am happy to explain how these processes work if a potential client contacts me. There is also information available on our website, GKlegal.com.
HHNJ: It seems that family law professionals have found remote work solutions so they can keep the legal process moving forward for their clients. How has your team managed to handle things with everyone in quarantine?
Bill: Since the courts “reopened” after the initial shutdown in March 2020, all court appearances have been virtual. The court uses either Zoom or Teams.
This has made some of the divorce process more efficient. Clients do not need to pay attorneys to travel to and from court and clients do not necessarily need to take off work for a court appearance.
The practice has also changed in that regard. While my office does allow the option of meeting in person with masks, plexiglass dividers and other protocols in place, most client meetings are either by Zoom or Teams.
Most mediations are also virtual. It is expected that much of this virtual world will continue even after the pandemic ends, as it has made much of the process more efficient.
HHNJ: One new approach to divorce that’s been popping up is the use of mediation. Have you worked with many clients in this way, and can you brief us on the process?
Bill: As mentioned above, mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that has great success in cases where both parties agree to mediation and are committed to using the mediator’s assistance to try to resolve their case. In mediation, the parties agree on a mediator who is a neutral third party, usually an attorney who practices family law. The parties attend mediation either with or without their own attorneys.
The mediator must remain neutral and cannot give legal advice to either party. The mediator can make suggestions and propose alternatives. Much of what the mediator does is to help the parties communicate, to understand and reframe each party’s position and to try to get the parties to meet in some middle ground on the issues.
Mediation can be a very cost effective way to settle the case and is much less expensive than litigating. I have had many clients use mediation as a successful way to settle cases, and I have acted as a mediator in many cases to help bring about a settlement.
An attorney for a party cannot also act as a mediator. The mediator must be a neutral third party so an attorney can either represent one party in the divorce or can be a mediator, but cannot be both.
Arbitration is a different process in that it is closer to litigation. However, rather than having a judge decide the issues in the case, you use a private individual, usually a retired judge or an attorney, as the arbitrator.
The arbitrator makes the decisions after a trial, and unless the parties agree otherwise, the decisions are binding on the parties. Arbitration is also considered an alternative dispute resolution process, similar to mediation and collaborative divorce, as these three alternatives do not require a judge to decide the issues in the case.
A summary of these options is on our website, GKlegal.com, under the family law section.
HHNJ: Some people want a quick and easy divorce. What advice would you give them to get things moving along?
Bill: If the parties are in agreement, the process is very straightforward. If they feel comfortable doing so, they can represent themselves, file the divorce complaint and go through the process without having attorneys.
The court provides some guidance to be able to do this, and most of the information is online through njcourts.gov.
If the parties are in agreement on all issues and want to have an attorney handle the process, one party can hire an attorney to prepare and file all of the paperwork. In that case, one of the parties should contact and meet with an attorney to understand the process.
HHNJ: Do you have any other tips for people who are potentially facing divorce in New Jersey? Feel free to elaborate.
Bill: I recommend that anyone considering a divorce have a consultation with an attorney to understand the process, learn the law in New Jersey and how it applies to the facts of that particular case, and discover options available moving forward.
I also recommend trying to be reasonable, trying to understand the other side’s position/viewpoint; and if children are involved, trying to do what is best for the children. Just remember that children love both parents, and it is not a contest to see who is the better parent, or who the child loves more.
Consider the big picture in terms of settling your issues fairly, and try to limit the attorneys’ fees. The more the parties agree on issues, the less they spend.
HHNJ: Thanks so much for taking a moment to talk with me today about divorce challenges in New Jersey and how things are changing. I’m sure our readers will appreciate the tips and guidance.
Contact Family Law Attorney William Rudnik, Esq. of Clinton, NJ
Gebhardt & Kiefer
1318 Route 31 North
Annandale, NJ 08801
Tel: (908) 735-5161 x 137
Fax: (908) 735-9351