Judge Ronny Jo Siegal (Ret.) Quoted in Article on Divorcing Couples Seeking Arbitration
The Honorable Ronny Jo Siegal (Ret.) was quoted in The New Jersey Law Journal, “More Divorcing Couples Seek Arbitration, Mediation Amid Court Closures.” The article discusses more couples turning to mediation because of the court closings, cancellations, and restrictions due to the pandemic.
Ronny Jo Siegal, chairwoman of the alternative dispute resolution practice of the family law department at Pashman Stein, said she’s seeing many couples holding off on filing papers.
“Many self-represented individuals are not proceeding [with a divorce] because they can’t afford to, or they feel their case has been harmed by the downturn in the economy and they want to wait it out,” said Siegal.
As a former Family Part judge in Bergen County until she retired in 2017, Siegal said courts have always favored parties going to arbitration and mediation.
“It was not only cost-effective for the parties, but it enabled courts that are so burdened with cases to obtain the assistance of the arbitrator and mediator to address the matters promptly,” said Siegal. “It also afforded the parties … expedient results. They didn’t have to wait [until] next month for their case to be called again.
“This has always been a compatible process and harmony between these groups,” said Siegal.
With the severe financial fallout from COVID-19, Siegal said, more couples are carefully mulling over their options.
“For one party, it may be an absolute need to get into court now to lower a support [number] or alimony to meet that economic reality. But the reverse is true for the other side of the aisle,” said Siegal. “Jointly, some parties can’t even afford to go to court to dissolve the marriage. They can’t afford to because they need the other party’s economic assistance.
“So rather than increasing the volume of arbitration and mediation matters, COVID may deter people from going forward,” said Siegal. “They want to wait it out until their lives get economically better.”
The issue of how children should be schooled during the pandemic has become a big issue among couples on the brink of divorce, said Siegal.
“Parents need to make an immediate decision, and mediators can provide greater attention with a shorter time period to respond and address that as an issue,” said Siegal. “Arbitration and mediation can provide a prompt resolution.”
“Family law has always relied upon compatible relationships between the professional and the client,” said Siegal. “We were all unsure without the ability to meet one on one if it would have a deleterious effect. There was the thought that we would not be able to do well unless we had our client in front of us.
“To the contrary, it has worked out very well,” Siegal said. “We have been able to navigate easily with the use of Zoom.”
Siegal said she’s seeing more flexibility in the resolutions being hammered out among couples because of the pandemic’s uncertainties.
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