IN FAMILY COURT, FAIRNESS IS IN THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER

What is fairness? When it comes to matters of custody, support and division of assets, each person has a specific sense of what is fair. Most resolve their family legal issues by settlement and dictate for themselves what is fair. However, many have a judge make a decision, either a temporary one during a divorce, after a Trial, or in a post-judgment action. It is the “fairness” of a judge’s decision that causes the most negative emotions about the family court system.

Judges are supposed to be neutral arbitrators of disputes between two individuals. The problem is that judges are human and bring their own sense of fairness and right/wrong to the bench. Because judges are granted extensive discretion by our law and few litigants can afford to appeal their decisions, it is easy to believe that judges essentially can do whatever they want. This is a simplistic view of the family court in New Jersey, but a not altogether incorrect one.

We can point to many examples of decisions by trial court judges that seem to be based more on personal feelings about a litigant than the law or the facts. For example, we recently were before a judge who started the proceedings by essentially saying that our client was a bad guy, before any argument was made by the attorneys. It is frustrating to litigants and most attorneys alike who look to the court to be neutral, only review the facts before it and strictly apply the law. Moreover, there is a sense that judges and some lawyers work together to perpetuate family court disputes, but that is not the correct way to look at the process and is factually incorrect the majority of the time. What we always tell our clients is that we cannot change the laws on the books or the discretion given to judges, so it is best to keep your dispute away from the courts and only take your dispute to a judge as a last resort. Even our best judges can make poor decisions due to the quality of the facts presented or the constraints of the law.

Despite all of the above, we still believe the family court in New Jersey is among the best in the nation. There are many great judges who try very hard to do the right thing. Regardless of the laws or the quality of the people who wear the black robes, there will always be disagreements about fairness and justice. Those are inherently subjective terms. If you want to ensure you do not have to make a judgement as to whether you and your family has been treated fairly by the court, you must keep your dispute out the court.

We pride ourselves on resolving cases out of court. Not only do you not subject yourself to a judge’s decision, but you save substantial money from not getting pulled down by the judicial process. If you want to see how our approach to keeping your dispute away from judges would help your situation, contact us.

Remember…we will not tell you what you want to hear. We will tell you what you need to know!

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