The two biggest complaints we hear at the Law Offices of Gina Calogero from litigants in family court is that it takes too long and that it costs too much to get a divorce. (See also BLOG – How much does it cost to get divorced in NJ?)
It can take as little as a few months, or over a year to get a divorce in northern New Jersey. The amount of time depends on many factors, including the complexity of the issues, the motivation of the parties, the availability of judges in your county of venue, Some of these obstacles can be overcome by cooperation and good faith; others are insurmountable.
For example, sometimes a divorce drags on because emotions are so high that one or both parties is unable to make rational decisions. Counseling or support groups can be effective in these cases. There is no way to stop a person from getting divorced, but many spouses attempt to slow the process with lack of cooperation. This is unfortunate but in many cases, time heals. Eventually, the uncooperative party realizes that the divorce is inevitable and even if they don’t like it, they have to accept it.
We are very lucky that the law offices of Gina Calogero are located in Bergen County, where we have many family court judges serving. The calendar in Bergen County moves fairly quickly as a result of this, and a case is considered “old” if it reaches the one-year mark. In adjacent counties such as Passaic, Essex and Hudson, we can also expect a fairly quick resolution of a case because of a full complement of judges. Some counties have a shortage in their family division. These situations can only be remedied by the government, since judges are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate.
If the issues in a case are complicated, it is not advisable to rush things. Cases where one or both spouses is self-employed or who work for a family business require special attention, because the company tax return doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Is there cash income? Does the business pay personal expenses of the spouse or the family (such as cars, cell phones or health insurance), that should be considered in determining the spouse’s ability to pay child support or alimony? Are there legitimate expenses, such as depreciation, that reduce the company’s bottom line but do not affect cash flow? Or are there unique and special issues for which there is no precedent? For example, until the landmark case of Houseman v. Dare, there was no legal precedent about determining custody of pets in a divorce case. Gina Calogero had no choice but to go to trial in the Houseman case because our client’s ex-fiancé would not agree under any circumstances to share their pet dog with her. Our client won an alternating shared possession agreement that gave each party 5 weeks with “Dexter” the pug.
Sometimes the assets take a long time to evaluate. If the parties have multiple houses, vacation homes, or property in a foreign country, the process of valuing the assets can take longer than when there is only one home and it is being sold. It takes additional time for your expert or appraiser to prepare the comprehensive, written valuation report that is the end product of the process. Business valuations can be very time consuming, especially if the business is not cooperative with releasing information and records. Court intervention is sometimes necessary to compel a party to cooperate.
Custody cases have priority in the court’s tracking system, but a custody valuation is a time consuming process that requires careful interviews with the children, the parties and key witnesses, and the expert’s opinion must be written, with supporting facts and explanations.
Because time is money, delays in litigation usually result in increased costs. Sometimes this is unavoidable. But when delays are caused deliberately by the other side – such as the spouse who is trying to thwart a business valuation by hiding assets or records – the Courts can step in and level the playing field. In egregious cases of bad faith in litigation a judge has the authority to shift counsel fees to compensate a party for willful and deliberate delays and increased legal expenses.
Here at the law offices of Gina Calogero, we try to reduce the time and expense as much as humanly possible, but there are some built-in reasons for delay and cost that can’t be avoided. We want our clients to understand the process of getting ready for divorce and why quicker is not always better. We at the law offices of GAC are also prepared to fight for our clients and to shift fees to the other party if the facts permit. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with the experienced New Jersey divorce attorneys at Gina Calogero Law, conveniently located in Oradell, New Jersey. We are experts in Divorce & Family Law and provide exceptional legal advice!