Are New York Courts Open for Family Law Matters During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

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As many people know, the courts in New York have been suspended since March 22, 2020 except for those matters deemed “essential.” In the divorce and family law context, essential matters have been defined to include child protection, family offense/temporary orders of protection, and applications for emergency relief where irreparable harm would be avoided with court intervention. The Courts are presently hearing these types of matters through Skype for Business only.

Although courts continue to operate on this very limited basis, on April 13, 2020, judges and their court staff began reviewing their dockets for other types of issues in cases that could be advanced or resolved through a Skype conference. This would include discovery issues and custody problems, among other concerns, where court intervention would move the case forward.

While courts are conferencing cases presently on their docket, courts are not accepting new case filings. Regarding pending cases, courts are also not accepting new motions for consideration unless there is an emergency involved such as domestic abuse or a substantial violation of a court-ordered custody agreement.

Any Temporary Orders of Protection that were issued prior to the court system’s March 22nd suspension order will continue in effect at least until the court assigns a new conference/return date.

Although it is presently unknown when the courts will fully reopen, it is likely subject to when the Governor will begin reopening New York State. While the current executive order is set to expire on May 15, 2020, the Governor may continue it if the rate of infection for COVID-19 remains high. That, in turn, would mean that the courts would continue only on the extremely limited basis it is currently operating under.

If you have divorce or family law questions, please contact us to discuss how we can help you with these issues.

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