Writing “COVID-19 has transformed our world” seems like an understatement. From the economic impact of the coronavirus to measures such as quarantine and stay-at-home orders, it's difficult to think of a way life hasn't changed since the pandemic's outset.
As a family lawyer, I'm privy to how COVID-19 has changed life for families across the US. Today, I'd like to share some thoughts about how COVID-19 has altered family law and what we can expect in the coming months.
Common Family Law Issues During COVID-19
From recurring issues I've seen clients deal with to what's next in store as states reopen, these are the major ways I see COVID-19 impacting family law:
- Filing cases is harder. Most courts shut down public operations during the pandemic. Even though many offered remote hearings, most courts only accepted emergency cases (like restraining orders for domestic violence) while shut down. As a result, most cases are now part of a backlog that will take months to clear up. Unless you're willing to turn to a private judge for a resolution, you'll probably have to wait a while to get a hearing—and even then, most private judgments require a sign-off by an official court judge.
- Child custody emerged as a new battleground for co-parents. The number of complications COVID-19 introduced into child custody arrangements is almost endless. Schools shut down, requiring parents to help kids navigate online classes. Over 40 million Americans lost their jobs, leading to financial instability. Many parents now have to work from home, which makes parenting even harder. Parents who are essential workers are forced to either chat with their kids remotely or risk exposing them to the coronavirus. The list goes on and on. Child custody arrangements are still legally binding, so parents must reach a resolution on how to co-parent, or file for an order modification in court. But since courts are backed up, that's easier said than done. It's a tough time for most parents, and the delay of child-related stimulus checks ($500 per child) until 2021 isn't helping.
- Domestic violence has escalated. According to a study by UT-Dallas, family violence in the city rose 12.5% during the city's shelter-at-home order. Domestic violence escalates as abusers with no outlet (and victims with no escape) are forced to remain in close quarters. If you're currently suffering from domestic violence or fear you're in a dangerous situation, you can contact the national domestic violence hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233 or texting 1-800-787-3224. Alternatively, you can find the hotline's website by following this link to learn more about the hotline and how to identify abuse. Even courts that shut down for COVID-19 are processing domestic violence restraining orders, so you should seek help if you're in danger. You should reach out to law enforcement professionals in your area to receive support and file for a restraining order. If you're in Denver, Colorado, here's a link to a webpage from the Denver Police Department that details how to identify domestic violence and receive assistance.
- Divorces may escalate in the future. When China lifted COVID-19 quarantines, the divorce rate boomed across the nation, and the same will probably happen in the US. COVID-19 might make some relationships stronger, but it will also disintegrate partnerships that were already on the rocks.
Here at David Self Law, PLLC, I help clients navigate a variety of family law issues, from divorce to child custody to property division to domestic violence and beyond.
To learn more or arrange a consultation with my firm, contact me online or via phone at (980) 223-3340.