The COVID-19 shutdown is, of course, having effect on every area of the law – particularly family law – from trials being delayed to ‘temporary’ court orders meant to take into account all the restrictions of social distancing.
It makes sense, things are different, it’s certainly not business as usual anywhere, the courts recognize that and are acting – with certain constraints. Because the law isn’t changing. Procedure isn’t changing. The timing of filings, motions, briefs, and responses to actions, as well as the statute of limitations have not changed.
Halligan LLC is still filing divorce actions on behalf of clients. The procedure has been adjusted for social distancing but is essentially the same.
Let us stress here, by the way, that we are very much encouraging clients to go ahead and file. Do not wait, trials have been postponed; that backlogs the courts and jams the dockets down the road; new cases will pile up; our feeling is that waiting for a return to normalcy to file will send clients to the back of a very long line.
Anyway, when a divorce action is filed, certain temporary orders are automatically entered by the court. To account for the COVID-19 we’re starting to see much more restrictive automatic temporary orders entered in cases prohibiting parties from ceasing to make mortgage payments, utilities payments, withholding children, etc.
Again, it makes some sense. It does, however, clash with many of the realities of the COVID-19 shutdowns. The orders do not exactly line up well with people who have been unexpectedly laid off, fired, furloughed, or unable to keep their businesses going because of the shutdowns.
We think these emergency orders will create some conflicts now, some in the immediate future, more as we begin to return to some normalcy, and even more down the road when the courts are running again and there is no need for these temporary orders, but the effects linger.
This is complicated enough that courts are currently advising parties who filed for divorce on their own to at least consult with an attorney before they move forward.
We’ll take that a bit further – we know people are unexpectedly strapped. We know people are eagerly awaiting checks from the federal and state governments. There may be some mortgage relief. There is already some student debt relief.
That’s great, but it will complicate things. Especially as everything is still changing and almost nothing seems written in stone.
Look at Halligan LLC – so far this week our law offices were ordered closed, open, closed, then open again.
Talk to us before you take any actions that could impact you and an orderly, as-smooth-as-possible divorce.