Coronavirus (COVID-19) has obviously been forefront in the news these past few weeks. The everchanging developments are causing great uncertainty and panic. Schools are closed, and the government has implemented a statewide shelter in place directive.
This is causing some parents to review their custody orders, as they may not be sure who is responsible for the child(ren) during school and daycare closures. Others have general questions about whether the courts are open, if they must report to jury duty, etc. Some may question if they will be able to have an attorney consultation during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Others are worried about financial issues such as the impact on orders for child and spousal support.
Cornwall Family Law is Open for Business
The team at Cornwall Family Law Office is fully functional and operating remotely during the mandate to shelter in place. As a firm that was already on the cutting edge of technology, we are fully equipped to offer meetings and consultations via video conference. With a strong outreach to the military community around the world, we already had such measures in place. When calling to schedule an appointment, you will be given the option of scheduling a phone or video conference. Other than things outside of our control such as partial court closures, our mission will continue without disruption.
Monterey County Courts
The last official news release from the local court states that they are closed through April 6, 2020. Watch this helpful video on the current situation of the courts by clicking here! For existing hearings, attorneys are being asked to confer with one another and select new mutually acceptable dates. Right now, Monterey County Superior Court is setting matters out to July and August. Court employees are considered essential workers and are exempt from the mandate to shelter in place. Thus, while thing such as the public counter are currently closed, the court is accepting new electronic filings. The court is also available to handle genuine emergencies such as domestic violence restraining orders.
Visit the homepage of the Monterey County Superior Court for the latest updates.
Impact of Possible Delays in Support Cases
If your hearing concerns issues like child or spousal support, you are generally entitled to relief retroactive to the date you filed. For example, if your hearing on spousal support ends up getting moved out an extra 90 days, when you do get to court, the paying spouse will already owe the recipient spouse several months of back pay. This is what’s called an “arrearage.” If one of our clients anticipates receiving support, we will attempt to reach an agreement to mitigate the hardship caused by a long delay in getting into court. If one of our clients is likely going to be paying support, we will calculate their estimated support obligation. By sharing this information with our client, we can mitigate the opposite result – being stuck with a large arrearage. This is one small example of how experienced family law attorneys can help in these uncertain times.
Custody and Related Financial Issues
Parents sometimes get confused by their custody schedules. Children are ALWAYS deemed to be in the care of one parent or the other, even during times when the child is in school or daycare. We do not divide the timeshare between parents and the school/childcare provider.
In more “normal” times, pre-Coronavirus (COVID-19), we sometimes used the phrase the “throw-up” test: If a child became ill at school and suddenly needed to be picked up mid-day, which parent would be the one who had to notify their employer that they had to leave work unexpectedly? This helps underscore the importance of very specific language in any custody/visitation schedule. In other words, any custody order needs to make it clear when one parent’s time ends and the other parent’s time begins.
Another issue that may come up is an unexpected increase in daycare costs. Both parents are responsible for one-half of any work-related daycare costs. It is important to keep the other parent informed as to any changes in these costs. Also, child support does not automatically change just because a parent’s employment situation has done so. If you’re experiencing a major change in your income due to job closures or cutbacks, or you are being forced to miss work because your child’s school is closed and you cannot find appropriate daycare, the burden is on you to initiate a modification. While there will be a delay in getting a court date, you will be entitled to retroactive relief back to the date of filing. Thus, it is important to file now if you are experiencing a significant change in your situation. For more information about how Child Custody and Visitation usually works without Coronavirus (COVID-19) involved, click here.
Family law issues oftentimes involve extraordinarily important rights and issues. The legal profession is doing its best to accommodate clients during these challenging, unprecedented times. Cornwall Family Law Office stands as ready as ever to help. Please call us today to discuss your legal needs and concerns. Stay safe!
For more information about how a divorce will affect your existing custody or support order, or to schedule a consultation, contact us. Also, like and follow our Facebook page to get the most up to date information!