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Domestic violence and abuse allegations are unfortunately a common part of many divorce cases in New Jersey. State law allows a person to sue his/her spouse if there was personal injury from the abuse as part of a divorce proceeding. In New Jersey, this is called a Tevis claim.  The law also allows divorcing spouses to use a neutral arbitrator – a private third party who is often a retired judge – to hear Tevis claims. Arbitration is often an efficient and cost-effective way to resolve some or all legal disputes. As the state’s Superior Court recently explained, however, arbitration awards are final, and courts have only limited power to undo them.

gavel-1238036Wife filed for divorce from Husband in 2010, following roughly 25 years of marriage. She also filed a Tevis claim, alleging that Husband had abused her over the course of the marriage.  She was seeking money damages for related injuries. The spouses later agreed to submit the Tevis claim to binding arbitration before proceeding with the divorce case. Following a hearing, the arbitrator ordered Husband to pay Wife $125,000 in damages for physical and mental injuries. Although the arbitrator did not issue any fact findings related to the alleged abuse, a trial judge later confirmed the arbitration award.

Husband later appealed the decision, arguing that the arbitrator’s award violated public policy because it wasn’t based on any specific fact findings about whether the alleged abuse ever occurred. He also argued that the arbitrator wrongly relied on a letter that Husband wrote to Wife after she filed for divorce. The Court did not describe the contents of that letter.

 

Affirming the decision on appeal, the Superior Court explained that the New Jersey Arbitration Act “grants broad powers to arbitrators,” which are “subject only to limited review.” Arbitration awards are generally presumed valid, the Court said, and can be overturned only if the award was procured by fraud or corruption, partiality by the arbitrator, or a refusal to consider evidence, or if the arbitrator exceeded his or her authority.

In this case, the Court said the arbitration agreement didn’t require the arbitrator to issue findings of fact along with the award. As a result, it said the arbitrator’s responsibility was to simply issue an award. The Court also explained that the arbitrator was not bound by rules of evidence that would have governed the letter had it been introduced in state court.

The New Jersey domestic violence and child custody lawyers at Helfand & Associates have more than 100 years of combined experience representing clients in a wide range of divorce, child custody, and support cases. Our lawyers work diligently to ease the stress on clients in what can be a trying process by building the strongest possible cases for the people whom we represent.  Tanya N. Helfand, Esq., is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney of New Jersey.

Our offices are conveniently located in Whippany and New York City. We are happy to offer clients a free consultation in family law and other cases. Contact us online, call our New Jersey office at (973) 428-0800, or call our New York City office at (646) 213-9053 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys.

 

Our Offices
  • Whippany Office
    575 Route 10 East
    Suite 1
    Whippany, New Jersey 07981
    Phone: 973-428-0800
    Fax: 973-428-0830
  • New York Office
    420 Lexington Ave.
    New York, New York 10170
    Phone: 646-213-9053
Testimonials
  • "Without Tanya and her time, the really unpleasant experience of getting divorced would have been even worse. They were able to settle the matter very quickly and helped me fit this into my tight schedule allowing me to leave to move abroad for my dissertation research on time without having to delay the trip because of the divorce. They also did all of it within my very tight budget. Thank you so much for your help and dedication to my legal matter!"  - AG

  • "Tanya and her Associates are outstanding! What I admire most about Tanya is her knowledge of the law with her keen negotiation skills to foster mediation. Her strategies efficiently resolve conflict leading to the resolution of cases. She and her team have an outstanding work ethic, know what data are needed, and get the job done. It is a pleasure to work with such wonderful professionals."  - Tara, Whippany

  • "I found Ms. Helfand's knowledge and tenacity most reassuring during the ordeal of my divorce. She was steadfast in her guidance and was very effective in her negotiations on my behalf. I would recommend her without a second thought."  -Jonathan

  • "Ms. Helfand was very professional and helpful with our bankruptcy case. Her advice was very useful and helped us make the proper decisions for our situation. In addition, she was very supportive during a very difficult time for us. Finally, she set very specific fee expectations and there were no surprises when it was completed. I would use her services again and would recommend her, without question."

  • "She is Incredible, very quick responding to the other party. Very professional and courteous. I highly recommend her. She has a great passion and love for every single case."

  • "Tanya and her team were very professional handling my divorce proceedings. She was very proactive in making the other attorney finally get the process moving forward. I would recommend her to anyone looking for legal services."  -Scott

  • "Ms. Helfand strategized & processed, both, my Divorce & Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. As both cases were emotionally and legally challenging, Ms. Helfand proved to be an empowering Mentor along the path to clarity for which I am truly grateful.I highly recommend her legal expertise to anyone who is seeking a confident, savvy & caring attorney to become at peace with self and any legal matters."  -Vas

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