Holiday parenting time during COVID-19: plan now!

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing so do the complications imposed upon our daily lives. While we all wish we could “go back to normal” we are not there yet. The impact of the pandemic has added unique complications to many issues of family law and The Durst Firm has been busy dealing with those issues for our clients.

Parenting time is one area that has been greatly affected. Perhaps one parent works on the frontlines of the pandemic as a health care worker or a police officer. These jobs put that parent at greater risk to catch COVID and thereby potentially the children, family member, and strangers to the virus. The other parent may be genuinely concerned. As are the courts.

As we enter the Fall, it is becoming clear that holiday activities and parenting time will also be impacted. Should your child go trick or treating assuming it is allowed in your locale? What about the traditional family gatherings? A few points to consider.

First, address these concerns NOW. The courts are open but backlogged. Any motions that are filed will take time to resolve. Also, courts are reluctant to decided holiday parenting time issues on an emergent basis by way of an order show cause.

Second, consider your travel requirements. NJ has been vigilant in identifying those states that present an elevated risk. Should you take your child to such a state? What about quarantine requirements? The guidelines are to quarantine for 14 days after travelling to a state on the list. Can you meet this guideline?

Third, whether you and the children are travelling or remaining at home, will you be exposed to extended family members, relatives, and friends. Are any of them coming from a state on the quarantine list? how do you know that your guests are healthy and have been following the best practices to stay healthy? Are you taking any measure to safeguard the children from the risks associated with group settings?

There are no easy answers to these questions and both parents should be diligent in their safeguarding the children and themselves. Flexibility is also warranted in these trying times. If you have concerns over the upcoming holidays and parenting time contact The Durst Firm to see how we can help.

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Why CLE matters

Attorneys in NJ are required to earn continuing legal education (CLE) credits in order to maintain our license. And while we do so for this reason, at The Durst Firm we engage in CLE in order to stay update on the law so we can better serve our clients.

Today and tomorrow we will be participating in the Mercer County Bar Association’s Xtreme CLE program

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Decorum in a virtual courtroom

As we continue to be mired in the COVID-19 pandemic, the NJ family courts continue to operate in a virtual environment. Having conducted multiple hearings by phone and video, I can say that judges, court staff, attorneys, and litigants are all doing their best in this new environment.

One consequence of conducting court hearings and trials by video is that there has been a gradual loss of decorum. During a recent meeting with the Mercer County Family Court judges the expressed their displeasure over this trend. After listening to their observations, I offer the following suggestions:

  • log on when instructed (early) so that the court staff can test the connection
  • If you must participate by phone, do so in a private setting. No one in Starbucks should hear your trial. And by all means, you should never be driving during the hearing
  • make sure you dress appropriately as if you were attending court in person
  • don’t eat or drink during the video proceeding
  • don’t smoke
  • create a comfortable, clutter free environment for you to sit and participate
  • eliminate background noise as much as possible
  • do your best to keep kids and pets from making an appearance
  • be mindful of your body language

Remember that your judge can see all that is going on. Credibility is critically important in family court. Conduct yourself in a manner designed to promote your credibility.

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If I didn’t get hit, is it still domestic violence?

The immediate answer is a definitive YES. Many people are under the false impression that domestic violence requires physical violence for the Court to protect the victim by entering a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or a Final Restraining Order (FRO). It is important for both sides – the victim and the abuser – to understand that an act of domestic violence can occur even in the absence of a physical confrontation. Various types of conduct can qualify as domestic violence.

“Defense counsel asserted at oral argument an FRO may be issued only if the court finds that a defendant poses a risk of physical violence to the victim. We reject that narrow interpretation of the PDVA. Although the prevention of physical harm is without question one of the statute’s most critical objectives, the PDVA also protects domestic violence victims from emotional harm and control inflicted by domestic violence offenders. The Legislature stated unequivocally its intent “to assure the victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from abuse the law can provide.” N.J.S.A. 2C:25-18. The definition of domestic violence set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(a), moreover, expressly includes harassment under all sections of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, thereby encompassing verbal, non-physical forms of harassment, subject to the constitutional limitations explained in Burkert and Hoffman. Defendant’s contention that the term domestic violence for purposes of the second Silver prong means physical violence is simply wrong.”

E.H. v. K.H., New Jersey App.Div., September 10, 2020

This decision supports the interpretation of the law as practiced by The Durst Firm. If you have questions about the domestic violence process we are here to help.

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Sandy Durst, Esq. receives a perfect 10 rating from AVVO.com

10.0Thomas S. Durst
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