Up until recently, the courts were only handling emergency matters, what they call “Priority 1”. All other matters, no matter how urgent they are to you or if uncontested, had to wait. Since the beginning of the month, the work the court is handling has been expanding. The biggest change involves the elimination of the requirement to come to court in order to get agreements approved. Right now, if you have a full agreement and prepare the necessary paperwork correctly, you can obtain final orders/approvals of agreements in the following matters without having to appear in court:
- Legal Separation
- Contempt Motions
- Modification Motions
Attorneys are considered essential workers and have been fully able to work throughout this process. If you have one of the above matters pending during this pandemic, there is little reason why your attorney is not working on your case to move it forward in an attempt to reach an agreement. Your attorney has been able to proceed. If they have not, it is in your best interest to contact them and request they do so. We do not know if this elimination of court appearances will continue beyond the pandemic response.
If you do not have a case pending but would like to proceed with one, it is not too late to start the process. If the matter is by agreement, it can likely be completed and filed before this rule changes.
Going to court is not a terrible thing, but most find it inconvenient. You have to miss work/arrange for child care, travel to court, wait for your turn (which could be a lengthy time) with others, take the stand and publicly testify about the terms of your agreement (which could include personal information). Had it been an option in the past, most of the clients I’ve worked with would have greatly preferred avoiding court and having their matter approved in private by the judge. There is also the added benefit of not having to pay your attorney to go to court. This greatly reduces your cost and should be an added incentive to reach agreements.
Unfortunately, not all matters proceed by agreement and the extent of the disagreement justifies the time and expense of a hearing. Contested matters are still being filed but have to wait for the courts to be able to accommodate a hearing. They are only just now starting to schedule contested matters and the dates being given are months away.
If you have any questions or would like assistance with your uncontested or contested matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office. We have been fully operational, working remotely, and have moved cases forward (and completed some) as much as possible given court restraints and opposing counsel/party cooperation (which hasn’t always been great). We are here to help and will continue to keep you informed as the courts continue to expand services. Be well.