As 2022 comes to a close (who can believe it?), I find myself reflecting on the year past, and also planning for the year ahead. 2022 has certainly has its ups and downs, but as the pandemic has waned, 2022 has also presented some new concerns for divorcing and divorced people.
Here’s what has been trending for clients over the past year:
- Narcissistic abuse: This is, far and away, one of the most prominent concerns for clients in 2022. I just recently published some advice for dealing with narcissistic co-parents during the holidays. As visibility surrounding mental health issues increase, there is a growing number of clients that have come to me describing a narcissistic abusive situations. 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. If you’re stuck in this situation, refer to Can the Parent-Child Bond be Restored After Alienation?
- Financial woes: The down economy has affected almost everyone in some way, and clients have been feeling the squeeze too. Some clients lost up to a third of their overall net worth this year, or more (crypto investors…yikes!). This changed the landscape of some of the divorces I’ve been litigating over the past year, especially with clients who are close to retirement.
- Medical decision-making: From vaccinations to issues surrounding hormone blocking therapies, disputes over medical decision making have been on the forefront for a lot of parents who disagree about the appropriate course of medical treatment for their children. Remember: joint legal custody requires discussion and agreement between parents on issues involving the health of children, so these novel health issues are presenting some unique issues for co-parents.
- Failed Custody Arbitrations: Many times, people find themselves so desperate to get off the civil court track, that they agree to arbitration in rabbinical courts without the advice of counsel. This can lead to results that the client did not really anticipate, especially if there is unfair or prejudicial treatment throughout the process. It’s at that point that we have needed to go to civil court to right the wrongs that probably could have been prevented had the client consulted with an attorney in the first place.
- Parent coordinators: Either clients need a parent coordinator because they can’t communicate, or want the parent coordinator to be relieved of his/her duties in a situation where the PC has ultimate decision making authority. Earlier this year, I handled an appellate matter, D.K. v. B.K., where I prevailed on a parent coordinator issue. This still remains a top concern in 2022.
- Modification of custody: This uptick could be attributable to some post-pandemic fallout, but I am seeing a lot of parents who have emotionally decompensating children that need custody to be addressed to create a different environment for them. There have been a lot of changes over the past 2 years, and the children (and their parents!) are feeling it too. A change of scenery may be a potential solution.
- Retirement & Alimony Termination: Another pandemic-related side effect. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for people to reflect upon the fragility of life, especially as they age. Many alimony payors, especially doctors who have been in the trenches as the pandemic raged through the country, are hanging up their hats and seeking to tie up their financial obligations as they head into retirement. I expect this to continue in 2023, especially with all the prevalence of viruses this fall.
- Relocation: Increased remote working has led to people seeking to relocate to more affordable locations, or closer to family. According to one study, 5 million employees have relocated since 2020 and another 19 million may follow. Relocating with children is never easy, but for divorced parents it can be especially tricky.
- Prenuptial agreements: The pandemic wedding hiatus has created a wedding boom, which means prenuptial agreements are on the rise. In 2022, there were 2.6 million weddings; the largest number of weddings in recent history. As always with any legal matter, plan early. You don’t want to be signing your agreement as you’re walking down the aisle (for both legal and personal reasons.
Stay tuned for my divorce predictions for 2023, where I expect some of the trends we’ve seen in 2022 to die down, and perhaps new ones yet to come.
Eliana T. Baer is a contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a partner in the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.