Coronavirus Delays Family Court Hearings, Impacting Many Litigants

Coronavirus Delays Family Court Hearings, Impacting Many Litigants

As the coronavirus pandemic brought many aspects of normal life screeching to a halt in 2020, many courthouses were shuttered to all but the most pressing criminal and civil matters. Hearings and trials not considered critical have been pushed back and some family courts have refused to allow the filing of new non-essential or non-emergency cases. Courts in New York have considered only a narrow range of matters to fall within these categories, such as issuing protective orders in behalf of a child or other family member.

This scaling down of court services comes at a time when families have had to deal with rapid and unpredictable changes in circumstances, including school closures, job layoffs, stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. Some plans for child custody and child support that were painstakingly negotiated — and that once worked well for all parties — may have become impractical or untenable.

Essential workers such as nurses, law enforcement officers and transportation professionals have come up against exes who fear the transmission of COVID-19 to their children. In some instances, one parent has successfully obtained an emergency court order for sole temporary custody on the basis that it is in the child’s best interest to stay in one parent’s home without contact with the other. In other cases, parents have disregarded their court orders and have simply refused to let the child travel between two homes. Sometimes a parent has failed or refused to uphold joint custody duties, saddling the other parent with increased childcare responsibilities.

If you are in the midst of parenting disputes that have intensified during the COVID-19 crisis, it may be possible to work out a solution through mediation. Even as government-mandated restrictions ease for courts and other organizations, it remains a possibility that these restrictions could be reinstated if subsequent waves of the pandemic occur. Proactively working with your ex to address current or potential differences could prevent further conflict in the future.

The experienced professionals at Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc. in Melville, New York help residents of Long Island and the Greater New York City area to use mediation as a path to resolving child custody and other family law issues. To schedule a free consultation, call 1.631.683.8172 or contact us online.

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