Even before COVID, in some counties, divorce trials were hard to come by due to backlogs and/or judicial shortages. Some counties ceased trials altogether for a time, even those trials that were underway. Then COVID happened and there were initially no trials for a while. Even when trials resumed, they were few and far between, and mostly done remotely (which will be a topic of a blog post for another day.)
However, in the last 6 months or more, there has been a push to start scheduling trials again, probably due to the appointment of many new judges and likely because the backlog was becoming untenable. With the scheduling or the threat of the scheduling of trials, came another phenomena that I have experienced. Specifically, a flood of calls from parties, some happy with the current counsel and many others not so happy, seeking to have us represent them at the trial. In my 30 years experience, I have seen that sometimes, parties seek to change counsel because there current counsel lacks trial experience. Other times, perhaps it is because there is a perception that current counsel is too chummy with and/or cannot stand up to opposing counsel. Some times, the client may feel that they are being pushed toward a settlement, that not longer before their counsel would never have recommended and may have even deemed unfair. For whatever reason, they have lost confidence that current counsel can adequately steer the matter toward either a fair settlement or be able to effectively try the case.
While statistically, more than 98% of all cases settle, and most before a trial starts, there are those cases that need to be tried. Believe it or not, despite the fact that divorce law is a litigation practice, there are surprisingly few lawyers who like to try cases and/or have significant trial experience. Myself, as well as many of the members of my group, have trial experience and more importantly, are not adverse to trying matters, and the hard work it takes to prepare, when it is necessary. There are also those cases that only settle once it appears that the other side is ready or willing to try the case. In fact, we have had several recent cases where the other side only finally got reasonable – if not desperate to try the case – when it was clear that our side was prepared to try the case.
You see a lot written about how to choose your divorce attorney. At the end of the day, I am certain that a big part of the decision comes down to how comfortable the client feels with the attorney and how confident they are that the attorney will do their best to get the best possible result. Over time, feelings could change for various reasons, some real, some perceived, some imagined. But if you your case has been dragging and settlement appears out of reach given the current paradigm of your case and/or trial appears imminent, and you are experiencing a crisis of confidence about whether your current choice of counsel remains the best choice, there are other options out there.
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973) 994-7501, or firstname.lastname@example.org.