It goes without saying that the impact on all of our lives due to COVID-19 this year has been devastating. Divorce cases are no different, and in some ways have been very hard hit by the epidemic. This blog will offer some ideas on how to manage your pending divorce during these strange times.
How Covid-19 Restrictions will affect your divorce will depend on what county you live in.
The first thing to talk about is court delays and how that is impacting everyone. How significantly this will impact you depends on your county. For example, Clackamas County here in Oregon has been largely operating with business as usual. They had a few months of limited court times but then moved most hearings to be held by telephone or zoom. Divorce trials are still proceeding on pace for the most part. However, Multnomah county has been completely shut down for all intents and purposes since March and continues to be shut down until at least January of 2021.
If you are in Multnomah or Washington county, then your access to any relief from a judge is going to be incredibly limited for a period still. Not only are they currently not scheduling anything that isn’t completely urgent, but once they do start scheduling matters any new filings are going to be placed at the back of the line of people who have been waiting for 9 months now for their turn.
In short, if you are in Clackamas county or have the ability to file your case there, you should be mostly alright with respect to being able to proceed through your divorce case. However, for the people who are not so fortunate, it can be either blessing or a curse. For example, there are some people who are in a situation where the delays do nothing but strengthen their case. There are other people where delays are devastating.
Expedited access to family law court
There are a few tricks attorneys can do to try and use a necessary delay to your advantage, but those are case-specific. The court is allowing people to petition for expedited access to the courts, so if you are in a position where lengthy delays are a nightmare to your situation with your kids, an experienced attorney can help jump you to the front of the line in some situations.
Parenting Time Challenges and Coronavirus
Putting aside the issue of the court delays, there is also the incredibly difficult dynamic created by this virus related to exchanges of parenting time. A common question from clients involves some form of fear that the other parent is not following proper distancing guidelines. A lot of people are rightfully fearful of this. Others might feel their ex is overreacting without cause. There is bad news for some (good news for others) in that Oregon has effectively decided to issue a blanket law saying that if you have a parenting plan, you WILL follow it regardless of coronavirus concerns.
Parenting Time, Holiday gatherings, and travel during COVID-19
There are of course thousands of other case-specific situations that come up. For some people that might be what to do for holiday gatherings with COVID. You might be wondering if it is a good idea to travel during these times to visit family for Christmas, or if that might look bad in the eyes of the judge. Maybe you are stuck trying to figure out daycare or school with an uncooperative co-parent. There are good answers to all of these questions, but they really do depend on your specific situation. An experienced attorney can help answer these questions.
As a general rule, I suggest clients, for now, to err on the side of caution in not traveling. You might end up with a judge who thinks it’s fine, but if your divorce is pending right now, you don’t want to travel with the kids and happen upon a judge who is very much of the opinion that travel right now is reckless. However, that isn’t a rule that applies to everyone. It partly depends on how much of a “bubble” everyone has been in, along with countless other details that might impact whether travel is a good idea. The reality is that this situation is so new for all of us still, that we don’t yet have an answer that applies to everyone about how they should behave, or how they should handle daycare or school issues. What we try and do is take these on a case by case basis and develop a plan that will get everyone through such bizarre times as best we can.