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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10.0Thomas S. Durst
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Can I lose the spouse and keep the beach house?

Keep your beach house!

Identifying and prioritizing goals for our clients is one of our more important responsibilities to our clients. In picking your battles you can win the war.

A second residence can be home to many family memories and traditions. If retaining the beach (or lake, or mountain) house is important to you then it is important that your attorney understands your houses. While we cannot guarantee results, The Durst Firm has been building successful strategies for twenty years. Contact us to see how we can help you.

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The Durst Firm is on the move!

After six years in our Trenton location, The Durst Firm is relocating as of September 1, 2020. Going forward our address will be: The Durst Firm, LLC, 100 Overlook Center, 2nd Floor, Princeton, NJ 08540. Our phone number, fax number and email remain the same. The Firm’s practice will remain rooted in Mercer County and this move reflects the statewide reach as our services are requested by individuals across the state. Readily accessible on Route 1, the move allows us to continue to offer high quality legal services at competitive rates. Although we have a new location, The Durst Firm remains focused on family law.

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