I am sure you have heard the joke at this point that all of this social distancing at home with your family and loved ones will lead to both a baby boom in nine months, as well as a boom in divorces. As a family law attorney, I am not quite so cynical. I believe that the increased amount of time at home and time together with loved ones will give everyone more time to reflect on what is truly important and to evaluate areas of their lives that could use improvement. Whether that is wanting to seek additional parenting time with your kids, deciding that you need to marry the person you have been sheltered-in-place with and need a prenuptial agreement, or yes, even if you need a divorce, the family law attorneys at Lommen Abdo are here to help. We are experienced in helping clients transition from one phase of their lives to the next phase.
Other areas of family law have already been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and the subsequent government orders designed to flatten the curve. Here are some tips regarding those areas:
Parenting Time for Split Custody
Short of a true threat to the health and safety of your children, you should continue to comply with your Court’s order regarding parenting time, or you risk facing contempt of court. All parents should be mindful of the CDC’s recommendations for social distancing and proper hygiene during this crisis, but this crisis should not be used as a tool to gain additional parenting time. If a true threat to health and safety exists, such as a positive test for COVID-19 or the desire of a parent working in the health care field to avoid contact with family members while providing important assistance to patients, then an agreement should be reached regarding care for the children during the crisis and compensatory parenting time once it ends. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts have provided helpful guidelines for parents dealing with split custody during this COVID-19 crisis, which can be accessed here.
Parenting Disputes with Court Closures
With the issuance of shelter-in-place orders, the Court system has been primarily closed during this crisis. Absent a true emergency with regards to parenting, normal parenting disputes will not be considered a high priority by the Courts and are unlikely to receive a Court date for several months. Judges are unlikely to look favorably upon parents that escalate disputes and attempt to bring motions before the Court during these closures that are not true emergencies. Parents must be prepared to work together and make sacrifices during this crisis to avoid conflict and work towards the best interests of their children. However, should a conflict arise that cannot be resolved privately between the parents, alternative dispute resolution methods should be considered so Court involvement is not needed. This can mean telecommunication with a mediator or parenting coordinator. Parties should be prepared to avoid traditional Court methods to address their conflicts.
While courts may be primarily closed, that does not mean work on your current case or dispute must come to an end. There are many reasons to continue to work with Lommen Abdo on your family law disputes. For divorces, your valuation date generally will coincide with the Court’s Pre-Trial Conference. Courts are holding off on scheduling hearings until well into the summer now, so the sooner you can get your divorce filed and hearing dates scheduled, the better. Similarly, spousal support and child support motions are retroactive to the date of filing and serving the motion. Even if a Court date is not held for several months, it is important to file and serve the motion as soon as possible. Finally, many other avenues exist to resolve disputes. The attorneys at Lommen Abdo are well-trained to handle all forms of alternative dispute resolution to bring your conflict to a satisfying resolution.
It may seem like the world has been placed on hold during this COVID-19 crisis but, of course parenting your children never gets placed on hold. Both during and after this crisis has passed, the family law attorneys at Lommen Abdo are here to help you navigate the many stresses and emotions that come with these difficult times. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you need assistance!