I’m a divorce lawyer Manhattan. As such, we often clients complain about the NYC divorce judges taking too long to make a decision on issues in divorce. The above complaint comes up in two different, but often related, situations: first, a judge who has “reserved” decision but who is taking an excessive amount of time to complete it; and second, a judge who, court appearance after court appearance, just won’t make up his or her mind, leaving it to the parties and their attorneys to try to work things out.

The former situation can be partially explained by divorce lawyer Manhattan as a general congestion in matrimonial courts.

In 2017 alone, approximately 4,000 new contested matrimonial cases, and  approximately 16,000 new uncontested matrimonial cases were filed in New York City (Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, and Richmond counties). This number does not include cases filed in previous years that continued into 2017.  For context, only approximately 15 judges preside over contested matrimonial cases for all five boroughs, meaning that each judge presiding over a matrimonial part has at least 250 cases per year, and likely much closer to 300 or 400.  With this in mind, it is no wonder judges encourage parties to settle – they simply do not have time to hold a trial or render a written decision in every case. A good divorce lawyer Manhattan will also guid you towards a quick settlement.

Settlement is often good for couples going through divorce, as it gives them more control over the future of the family. Sometimes, however, a settlement is not possible and a judge’s decision is required.

A judge’s code of ethics includes the mandate that judgments shall be issued within a reasonable amount of time, so as not to prejudice any party.  To encourage this, the New York Supreme Court has specific “standards and goals” which set out the time in which judges are to render decisions and resolve disputes.   The Uniform Rules and The Excellence Initiative of the Unified Court System indicate that contested matrimonial actions should take no longer than twelve months to complete, and most judges do their best to try to hit this mark. Your divorce lawyer Manhattan should work closely with you and the court t monitor that these “standards and goals” are observed.

Major problems arise, however, in the latter of the two situations mentioned above.  There are some cases wherein the parties, the attorneys, or the issues at hand require the intervention of the judge.  Perhaps the parties are so angry with one another that they refuse to agree on even the most logical of proposals.  Perhaps one or more of the attorneys is lazy, or incompetent, or overly aggressive.  Perhaps the circumstances are just so complicated that the matter requires the expertise of the judiciary to sort out.  Whatever the issue, when a case like this comes before a judge who seemingly does not want to make any decisions in the matter, a case can languish for months and even years.

Cases are randomly assigned to a matrimonial judge upon filing, and, with a few exceptions, remain with the same judge through the entirety of the case.   While there are some instances in which a case can be transferred to a new judge, delay in making up his or her mind is not a basis for such relief.  As such, there are few solutions available to litigants faced with this problem.  Complaints can be filed with administrative judges or bar associations, but these seldom lead to immediate relief for the person in need and, if anything comes of them at all, will likely only impact the judge’s career down the road.

This is a problem in need of a solution, and the court system has enacted programs and rules such as the “standards and goals” to attempt to move things along for litigants.   Even with such programs in place, however, this situation can arise, and there is little that even you divorce lawyer Manhattan can be do about it.