Hi there. Billie Tarascio with Modern Law. Family courts have absolutely been affected by the coronavirus, and family law clients have been affected by the coronavirus. The issues that our clients are struggling with right now have changed amid the coronavirus outbreak, and so today we’re just going to do some Q&As. The first question is, “How will the coronavirus affect my family law case?” Well, it’s a great question because the coronavirus has affected every aspect of your life, including your family law case. Right now the courts are closed to in-person meetings except for domestic violence and emergency orders.
But I just had somebody come into my office who has had his daughter with him for years, and years, and years, and then the mom showed up out of nowhere, and took the daughter because there’s no school. Basically, she’s using the change in routine and the coronavirus situation to say, “It’s my turn to take care of her now.” Well, there’s no court order in place for them. He can’t file a regular motion. He has to file an emergency motion. Now, the thing that will allow us to do that in his case is, there is a statute that says, “If for unmarried parents, wherever the child has lived for the last six months, that is the custodial parent,” so he is the de facto custodial parent, and can file an emergency motion. But this is the sort of chaos that people, family law clients, are experiencing with what is going on.
The next question is, “What does this mean for you?” The courts are closed to in-person hearings. That means all evidentiary hearings that will occur, need to be telephonic or video. So this is a discussion that you need to have with your attorney to decide, “Do I want to move forward with the case I’ve got right now, or should I ask for a continuance?” This is a strategic decision, and you should talk to your attorney. One of the things that we’ve done at Modern Law is, we have reduced our consultation fee to $99 from our regular $250 because we know that there’s a lot of people out there that need legal advice right now, and we want to help.
Can you file new documents? Great question. The courthouse is closed to the public, but right now they’re allowing 10 people in at a time to file documents, so if you’re filing documents yourself, you need to be prepared to wait for quite a while. The hard part about this is, essentially you’ve got people waiting in line close to one another outside in order to get in, but we do have a runner, and we can file documents for you. Absolutely.
Who is making these decisions anyway? Who is deciding who takes care of the courthouse? That’s a great question. The Maricopa County family law presiding judge is the person who issued the administrative order closing the courts unless it’s an emergency. The clerk of a court is a completely separate entity, and they are the ones who come up with the procedures for filing, letting in 10 people at a time.
Can you still get divorced? Yes, you can still get divorced, either by consent or stipulation, which means if you have an agreement. If you don’t have an agreement, then we have to figure out some virtual mediation or arbitration. Our office is still open, but just for appointments only. The other thing is, there is a new uncontested divorce procedure that you can take advantage of.
There’s other questions here, but that is all for now, and I will do a separate video with some more fabulous information for you. Make sure to reach out if you’ve got questions. A lot of this is very personal. A lot of the questions we’re getting are, “Should I withhold my child? Should I exchange my child? Should I put a child on a plane,” and that is all something that we should talk about individually. It’s not something that there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. Stay safe. Stay healthy.