Even under the best of circumstances, issues involving divorce, child custody and support are never black and white. However, throw in a global pandemic, and matters become even more confusing.
Though the courts may have closed their doors due to COVID-19, for many individuals going through contentious family legal issues, the virus only served to exacerbate existing troubles. From disagreements regarding timesharing to arguments stemming from missing support payments to the inability for domestic violence victims to receive proper legal intervention, many people find that the virus has taken already stressful matters even more so. If you are one of many whose family legal troubles have been heightened by the pandemic, you may wonder how you can quickly resolve your legal troubles in the safest way possible. Though we invite you to use your discretion when it comes to the health and well-being of your family, below are a few tips that can help you navigate family court issues in the days to come.
Try To Serve Documents Through E-Filing or Email
COVID-19 has resulted in some unique family court issues. For example, some parents are so fearful that their children will contract the virus from the other party that they have unlawfully withheld visitation. Others react in the exact opposite manner—they want to travel with their children but receive resistance from the other parent. Many parties have been laid off and unable to make support payments as a result. These individuals wish to seek court intervention sooner rather than later and so wish to file a complaint, serve a motion or respond to a motion right away. If you are in a situation you feel needs immediate attention, consider using your court’s e-filing or email service. This reduces the need for human interaction or for the transfer of paperwork by hand.
Look Into Extended Filing Deadlines
Due to COVID-19, many courts have extended their filing deadlines for certain types of non-emergency documents. For example, if you received a motion for change of custody, you may have longer than normal to respond. Though you should check with your county courthouse to see if this is, in fact, the case, if you are allowed an extension, try to take advantage of it. The longer you give it for COVID-19 cases to drop, the greater the likelihood you can resolve your family legal matters without putting yourself or your loved ones at risk.
Request a Virtual Hearing
Some courts have limited the types of cases they will hear in the courthouse. Those may include but are not limited to contempt hearings, motions for new Personal Protection Orders, motions for emergency orders aimed at protecting the safety and well-being of children and child protective hearings. For all other hearings, the courts may decide that Zoom meetings are sufficient. Even as the courts gradually begin to reopen, consider requesting a virtual hearing to limit in-person contact and reduce the risk of transmission.
Protect Your Privacy
Most family law hearings are open to the public. This was true pre-COVID days and remains true even if your hearing is held through Zoom. While a judge will limit public access in unique situations, if you want to protect your privacy regardless of the nature of your case, file a motion asking the judge to close your hearing to the public.
Download the Forms You Need
At Roybal-Mack & Cordova, P.C., we want to keep you, courthouse staff and all other relevant parties safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. One way we’re doing our part is by providing divorce, custody and child support forms through our website, free of charge. This eliminates the need for individuals to go down to the courthouse to obtain the relevant paperwork. To learn about the other measures we’re taking to keep our community safe, visit our website today.