Divorces, custody battles await years of NJ hearings

You want a divorce, but you can’t go before a judge to iron out all the details and officially move on.

For countless couples in New Jersey, this has been a struggle for years due to a significant backlog at the Supreme Court level. Despite some progress earlier this month, nearly 60 Supreme Court justice seats remain vacant in the Garden State.

“The state really needs to understand the impact this is having on families,” said Jessica Swenson, partner and chair of the family law department at Curcio Mirzaian Sirot in Roseland.

Swenson said her office saw a significant increase in divorce filings, as well as domestic violence cases, as the 2020 coronavirus pandemic hit New Jersey. The push resulted in an already existing deficit skyrocketing.

Now, as families wait to face a judge — Swenson’s office has heard some hearings may not be possible until late 2023 — they are left in limbo in a less-than-ideal home situation.

“You have couples who have decided to end their marriage who are forced to stay in the same household because people cannot afford to live in two separate houses until the divorce is finalized,” she said . “And when children are involved in these scenarios, they really are the victims here.”

As at the Supreme Court level, nominations for Supreme Court justices are made by Governor Phil Murphy. The state Senate approved four names in the second week of August, but 59 seats across the state remain vacant and more judges are expected to retire by the end of the year, according to Swenson.

Gov. Murphy has nominated dozens of names for the Supreme Court in 2022; most have been confirmed.

“He will continue to appoint qualified and capable individuals to the judiciary and will work with the Senate through the deliberation and consent process,” Murphy’s office told New Jersey 101.5 in July.

At the same time, three of the seven seats on the New Jersey Supreme Court remain vacant.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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