Coronavirus’ Effect on Courts
The following content is current as of March 20, 2020. We will be monitoring the situation closely and updating information over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
Depending on the process chosen, divorce can often involve formal court proceedings. This means that you must rely on a public system to resolve a private matter. Because of the risk and uncertainty imposed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the CDC is encouraging Americans to practice “social distancing” and not gather in groups. But what does this mean for New York court proceedings? What do you do if you need support because of domestic violence?
Here is the latest:
Coronavirus’ Effect on Courthouse Operations
With the rapid spread of the coronavirus, many states—including New York—have curtailed operations in their courthouses. This means that legal proceedings are temporarily suspended. As for what the future holds, we may look to the move New York criminal courts took on March 25th, to provide videoconferencing for arraignments. If the coronavirus crisis is prolonged—as some speculate—the courts may turn to videoconferencing to move cases through the courts.
There are important exceptions to the shutdown, however—“essential proceedings”. This includes cases of domestic violence. A March 22 order aimed to limit court filings granted exceptions to “essential matters” including “temporary orders of protection (including but not limited to matters involving domestic violence)” and “emergency applications in guardianship matters”. The state reserves the right to amend this list. Therefore, it’s critical to keep your eye on what the state deems “essential” over the coming days and weeks of the pandemic.
All other business—including divorce proceedings—are temporarily suspended.
Statutes of Limitations
Depending on your particular divorce case, you may have your eye on New York’s statutes of limitations. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, the Governor’s office has issued an Executive Order that suspends statutes of limitations on legal matters until April 19, 2020. This date may be extended depending on how the crisis unfolds in New York.
Alternative Divorce Methods
These courtroom postponements may be stressful and even cause real financial hardship. But there are ways to dissolve your marriage that take you out of the courthouse. This may be a moment to consider an alternative path.
In a collaborative divorce, attorneys, together with other experts including child psychologists and accountants if necessary, work their clients in an informal, private setting in a solution-focused alternative to divorce litigation. The collaborative process touches on all aspects of a marriage from a holistic perspective.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are looking for creative, alternative approaches to everything from catching up with friends to having work meetings to exercise. Perhaps it’s the right moment to consider an alternative to the courtroom, too.