Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Simple Court New Jersey Family Law Hearing?

While I realize they may be some of you who have been fortunate to have done well in court in your own, you should fell very lucky because that rarely happens.  I also understand that lawyers are expensive for a majority of folks.  Nevertheless, you should do everything possible to have a lawyer with you anytime you have a NJ Child Custody or New Jersey divorce related issue that requires the attention of the Family Court in the Superior Court of New Jersey.

You may be familiar with the old expression, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."  I love this expression and use it every time I meet with someone who is considering going to court without an attorney.  If you want to avoid a problem from happening, or making it much worse, it is wise to "do it right" the first time because to fix it after the problem "blows up," will require much more time and money than it should have.  I have a great example to demonstrate:

A very nice fellow came to see me a while back and he was extremely distressed as he shared his story with me.  He tragically lost his wife a number of years back leaving him and two very young children.  He did his best to keep it all together and was fortunate to receive some help from his sister-in-law (obviously the Aunt) with the children.  However, the sister-in-laws behavior became over bearing to the point that should refused to return the children home when she was spending time with them and she started bad mouthing this man's new girlfriend to the children as well.  The final straw was when his girls came home from the Aunt's house with new (and terrible) haircuts (which she cut herself with no permission or even a discussion about this with my new client, dad).   He then told the Aunt that she was no longer welcome around his children.  

Well, the Aunt had a friend who is a powerful divorce lawyer in New Jersey and they filed an application with the court for "parenting time" with the children.  My client (before he met me) went to Court on his own and the Judge did not dismiss the case but, instead, ordered that he must attend (and pay for) mediation to settle this issue. Outraged, he came to my office to see what could be done.  I explained that we could file a motion to reconsider the Court's decision (which we only had 20 days from the date of the Court Order to do so) and that it would be a tough case to win at this point.  His only other option was to attend mediation and then, if that failed, we could file a new application to the Court to have the Aunt's case dismissed.

Needless to say my new client was very distressed and asked me, "how did this go so wrong for me.  I am their father!  Doesn't that matter?"  I politely explained that if he had come to my office first, I would have defeated the motion right then and there because, under the applicable New Jersey child custody laws, the Aunt never even had a right to sue the father for parenting time and I would have had the matter instantly dismissed.  However, because he was all alone going up against a strong lawyer, the lawyer won.  Long story short, nearly two years later we are still fighting this case and my client not only has experienced a great amount of stress and many missed days of work but has also paid my office a significant amount in legal fees.  If he had come to me in the first place and I went to Court and won (as stated above), he would have paid me a tiny fraction of his ultimate legal fees and the case would have gone away.

To win a Motion for Reconsideration does not mean that we get to re-argue the case as if it was the first time the Court was hearing the matter.  Instead, a Motion to Reconsider will only be successful in very limited circumstances.  We must prove that the first Court Order was irrationally decided or glaringly wrong.  The only other argument is to is to prove that the Court failed to consider or appreciate the significance of important evidence. 

As a New Jersey Divorce and Family Lawyer with nearly 20 years experience, I can assure you all that this is a very difficult motion to win.  To summarize the previous paragraph basically means that you are telling the Judge that she was wrong in the first place and needs to rethink their decision.  Needless to say, this rarely goes well. Back to my example, if this nice gentleman had come to see me first, he never would have wound up in the mess that followed and while I am happy to report that it looks likely that we will be able to resolve the matter with a positive outcome for him, a case that would have cost very little money in legal fees and would have been over in a few weeks instead took a lot of money in legal fees and years to reach a settlement.  Please do not ever let this happen to you.  If you go to Court without a lawyer, regarding the most important thing in the world (your children), please call my office so we may keep you away from such a disaster.  Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."