The Coronavirus is having a significant impact throughout the world. For many, this pandemic came out of nowhere and has changed lives in ways nobody saw coming.
Apart from the imminent health concerns, many are asking about the impact on divorce and family law litigation. In many ways, this is still in flux and there are some immediate effects. There could also be other potential impacts that arise in the near or long-term future.
However, below are some ways the Coronavirus is already impacting some divorce and family law litigants:
First, courts are continuing many existing cases. Delays are notably more likely in family law cases that are in their preliminary stages on large dockets versus those already set for hearing or trial. Courts are often delaying many of these dockets for significant periods of time to avoid having a large number of individuals in the same courtroom where the virus can spread. These delays are causing many cases to be in a literal standstill.
Second, many parties are feeling the impact financially. The financial impact is seen in areas of business where the government is closing sectors of business to avoid the virus spreading. The sports, entertainment and restaurant industry are three examples. For those who work in these industries, they may have financial problems that make them unable to pay their child or spousal support. For parties who receive support, they might feel the pain of not receiving timely support payments during these times. Either way, the inability to comply with a court order could result in modification or contempt actions in the family court.
Third, custody cases can be contentious in divorce and family law litigation. For many litigants, they desire temporary custody and visitation with their children. They may also have imminent worries that they believe the court should address the matter through a Temporary Restraining Order. However, with many courts not fully operational, it can be problematic to have these matters heard right now. The net effect is many parties are unable to see their kids or are caught up in contentious custody battles without court assistance.
Fourth, in cases where there is domestic violence, there may be a need for an order of protection to protect against abuse. But with courts closed, it may be hard for some litigants to have these matters heard. With matters not being heard, some fear that domestic violence may not be addressed. For parties who claim they are wrongfully accused, they may also be subject to adverse temporary orders. With access to courts being limited right now, they may have a tough time having their case heard and their name cleared.
Divorce and family law litigation can be frustrating enough. Most are looking for ways for their divorce or family law matter to end either through settlement or trial. However, there is no question that the Coronavirus is making this more challenging right now.