In the ever-evolving landscape of divorces, the year 2023 has witnessed some dynamic changes influenced by societal shifts, technological advancements and legal considerations. While 2023 has certainly has its ups and downs, it has also presented some new concerns for divorcing and divorced people.
Here’s what has been trending for clients over the past year:
- The emergence of post-pandemic divorces: As the world gradually recovers from the pandemic’s grip, its aftermath continues to influence divorces. After all, there’s nothing like being stuck in a house with a partner you can’t stand that spurs a complacent partner toward a divorce. Changes in work dynamics, stress and altered priorities experienced during lockdowns have also contributed to a surge in post-pandemic separations.
- Virtual mediation and court appearances: Another holdover from pandemic life has been the shift to virtual platforms for mediations, arbitrations, meetings and court appearances. Technology offers accessible and cost-effective alternatives for couples seeking smoother divorce procedures, and also seeking to minimize costs associated with attorney travel and time away from work. There have been robust discussions among the judiciary and the bar as to whether the virtual platforms should survive in a post-pandemic world, but for now, it appears it’s here to stay for most mediations and non-trial court appearances.
- Impact of social media: Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok continue to affect divorces. Social media not only serves as evidence but also exacerbates conflicts, significantly influencing divorce proceedings. A word of caution: If you are going through a divorce, expect that your social media posts and text messages will be read aloud in a courtroom one day.
- Financial impact and division of assets: With the economy and housing market in flux, divorces are affected in material ways. For example, the rise in mortgage interest rates has limited post-divorce housing options, and in some cases, foreclosed the possibility of a refinance of a home to remove a spouse from a mortgage. Options that practitioners once considered as “go-to” divorce solutions are no longer, requiring a keener eye and creative, resolution-driven problem-solving.
- Emphasis on arbitration, mediation, and collaborative divorce: With New Jersey experiencing unprecedented levels of judicial vacancies, there has been a marked uptick in litigation alternatives, including mediation, arbitration and collaborative divorce methods. These approaches prioritize amicable resolutions while also helping litigants craft settlements that align with religious and cultural values. As alternative dispute resolution gains traction amidst judge shortages, its role in reshaping divorce proceedings is increasingly pivotal, offering efficient solutions in the face of evolving challenges.
- Narcissistic abuse: This continues to be one of the most prominent concerns for clients in 2023. As visibility surrounding mental health issues continues to increase, a growing number of clients have come to me describing narcissistic abuse. Don’t expect it to end when you separate. The narcissist is just getting started.
- Parental alienation: This is a not-so-distant cousin of narcissistic abuse that, many times, arises when a person leaves that type of marriage. Narcissists know that the only way they can get to you post-separation is through the children. Many times, they have promised that you’ll never see the children again if you leave. Believe it and then settle in for a long battle.
- Shift in generational attitudes towards marriage: Younger generations exhibit more progressive perspectives on marriage, leading to reconsideration of certain marital norms and expectations that prior generations took for granted. Now, with most households featuring two working parents, more progressive attitudes toward gender roles and an increased awareness surrounding the legal implications of divorce, couples are making different decisions as they enter into marriages, evidenced with my own anecdotal observations surrounding the rise in both secular and halachic prenuptial agreements. In other words, younger generations are viewing marriage as part of a larger transaction, and organizing their affairs accordingly.
- Increased focus on co-parenting solutions: Couples that prioritize the well-being of their children tend to opt for co-parenting apps (like Our Family Wizard) and collaborative parenting arrangements to maintain healthy dynamics post-divorce. With an updated New Jersey court rule clarifying parameters surrounding the use of parent coordinators—an intermediary that assists co-parents in working through their parenting disputes, and making decisions in the event of an impasse—that intervention is gaining more traction as well.
- Heightened focus on education and awareness: Particularly in the Jewish community, there appears to be a growing emphasis on divorce education, processes, rights and obligations. Of course, education is the most critical tool in breaking the stigma, and will ultimately help couples navigate divorce with informed decisions and understanding, especially where topics were once regarded as taboo.
Traversing the landscape of divorces in 2023 demands a nuanced understanding of evolving legal and cultural dynamics. By acknowledging these trends, couples can meet the divorce process head-on, and with more awareness and understanding of their unique circumstances. It will certainly be interesting to see what 2024 brings to the world of divorce.
Eliana T. Baer is a partner in the family law practice group of Fox Rothschild LLP, representing clients statewide in divorce, asset distribution, support, custody, domestic violence, premarital agreements and appellate practice. Eliana has been selected to the Best Lawyers in America (2024), Super Lawyers—Rising Stars (2014-2023), New Leaders to the Bar by the New Jersey Law Journal (2018), “Top 10 Under 40” list by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys (2017) and “Trailblazers” list in Divorce Law (2016)*. Eliana appears in both civil and rabbinical court. You can reach Eliana at 609-895-3344 or [email protected].
*Award methodology available at https://www.foxrothschild.com/eliana-baer/honors-awards.