As the coronavirus continues to sweep the US, it brings a slew of family law issues. Whether you're in the middle of a case disrupted by COVID-19, or are considering filing a family law case such as a custody order modification or a divorce, understanding the impact of COVID-19 on family law-related manners can help you proceed successfully.
How Does COVID-19 Impact Family Law Cases?
There are a few ways COVID-19 has impacted the family law industry and made matters more complicated for individuals engaged in family law cases:
- Non-emergency cases are postponed. The vast majority of courts closed their doors once COVID-19 started to escalate, prioritizing emergency hearings for cases like domestic violence restraining orders. As a result, individuals with "non-emergency" cases such as regular order modifications may have to wait to receive a hearing or conduct their hearing using video conferencing software like Microsoft Teams. Some people may also turn to private judging or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) solutions such as mediation to resolve their cases, although it is worth noting that most cases handled through ADR still require a signature from an official court judge to be finalized.
- Co-parents face unique challenges. Parents engaged in child custody arrangements are saddled with a number of unexpected burdens as a result of COVID-19. Schools and childcare centers closed down, presenting problems on two fronts: Parents have to establish new locations to transfer custody, and also find themselves acting as substitute teachers while schools try and carry out lessons online. The cancellation of landmark events such as graduations and proms also present children with unexpected emotional turmoil, which can make co-parenting more challenging.
Additionally, quarantine makes traveling more difficult in general. While child custody arrangements are still considered legally binding, actually complying with a child custody order while under quarantine may prove difficult for many parents.
Parents considered "essential workers" who risk coming into contact with COVID-19 while at work also face a multitude of challenges. They may wish to temporarily relinquish custody to protect their children, requiring new provisions like regular video chats with their children instead of having physical custody. Now more than ever, parents need to focus on communicating regularly and keeping each other updated on new developments so they can keep their children—and each other—safe.
- Divorce becomes more difficult. Couples who were considering divorce before COVID-19 exploded may now find themselves in between a rock and a hard place. The impact of the coronavirus on various markets, including housing, has depreciated a large number of common marital assets (at least in the short term). For example, filing for divorce now and being forced by a court to sell off the marital home could result in significant losses for both parties. If the parties share children, school closings and the fragile state of many children and young adults at this time also makes it challenging to conduct divorce and maintain good parent-child relationships.
Then, there's the issue of shared medical benefits. Assuming the divorce is amicable, it may be difficult for one party to justify cutting off their soon-to-be-ex's medical benefits while a global pandemic is at large. Couples may choose to put off filing for divorce to avoid these stressors, but obviously, that comes with its own emotional burden.
- Stimulus checks aren't functioning properly. The IRS recently announced that many parents will have to wait until 2021 to receive the child bonus ($500 per child) promised along with their stimulus. Parents who were relying on that bonus money may find themselves in a precarious position financially.
- Domestic violence is increasing. In Dallas, family violence rose 12.5% while the city's shelter-at-home orders were in place. If you are in danger of experiencing intimate partner violence, please follow this link to reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline and seek help
In short, the coronavirus has impacted almost every aspect of family law. Speaking with an experienced family lawyer can help you navigate your family law case more efficiently during this time.
At Law Practice, Ltd., our lawyer has over three decades of experience helping individuals navigate family cases.
Please contact us online or give us a call at (702) 899-2875 to schedule a consultation with our team.