COVID-19 Update: Our office continues to work and are here for you, but all communication will be via telephone, video conference, and email. Consultations are still available by telephone or video conferencing! All hearings are postponed until at least after April 30, 2020, except for domestic violence applications and emergency “ex parte” requests. Please keep reading for more information about how the COVID-19 pandemic may be impacting your case.
Information on Child Custody Orders:
You must still follow your child custody orders. Child custody and visitation orders remain in effect, and both parents continue to have all of their custody rights. All the surrounding counties consider driving to exchange children pursuant to a court order as “essential travel.”
COVID-19 is not a reason to deny parenting time. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, parents are considered fit to care for their children and make decisions regarding the day-to-day aspects of parenting while the children are in their care. This day-to-day care includes following state and local directives regarding social distancing, “stay at home” measures, and sanitation-related measures (such as frequent handwashing).
This is still the school year under parenting schedules. While the schools are closed, parenting time shall continue as if the children are still attending school in accordance with the school calendar of the relevant district. “Spring break,” “summer break/vacation,” or other designated holidays, means the regularly calendared breaks/vacations or holidays in the school district where the children are attending school (or would attend school if they were school aged). The courts are not considering the closure of the schools for public health purposes to be an extension of any break/vacation/holiday period or weekend.
Child custody exchanges: During the exchange of the children, all parties should follow the CDC guidelines for limiting the spread of the virus, which may mean choosing an alternate location for the exchanges that has fewer people congregating and less touching of public items (examples: use an empty parking lot, or use “curb side” exchanges if your child is old enough).
Supervised child custody visitation may be suspended: Some of the Southern California Counties have notified the public that court ordered supervised visits are temporarily suspended, and the time shall be made up with Skype or other video conferencing visits. For the counties which have not suspended supervised visits, such as San Bernardino County, the parents must cooperate in ensuring the visits take place in a manner safe and consistent with all other State, County and City orders.
Communication with the other parent is extremely important, especially if either parent or the child is exhibiting any symptoms of the Coronavirus. This situation is unprecedented, and once the family courts reopen, they will undoubtedly have to look back at how people interacted with each regarding child custody. Please be sure to respect each other’s parenting rights, while still practicing good health habits.
Information on the Court Schedules:
The family courts have cancelled all non-essential hearings and they will be reset after April 30, 2020. Some northern California courts have announced closures through the end of May; we don’t know whether that will be the case in local Southern California counties. The cancellations are happening automatically; there is nothing you need to do to postpone your hearing. The information is available on the open access page of each county’s website, and you can call our office for an update.
Temporary Restraining Orders are automatically extended. If you already have a temporary restraining order, or are subject to a temporary restraining order, the hearing on the permanent restraining order is cancelled, and will be set for a later date by the court. In the meantime, the temporary restraining order remains in effect.
The family courts are open on a limited schedule. The family courts are only holding hearings in the mornings on emergency domestic violence applications and emergency “ex parte” hearings.
What are emergency Ex Parte requests? We don’t have an exact definition, but one of the local has defined emergency Ex Parte requests as one where the applying party must be prepared to make an affirmative factual showing of irreparable harm, immediate danger, or other risk to human health, safety, or welfare. In addition, we have already seen the last couple of weeks at the local courts have generally been upholding and enforcing child custody orders on an ex parte basis.
Information on Our Office:
Our Temporary Office Schedule. We are monitoring and complying with all City, County and State health updates and requirements. We continue to work remotely and do not have any shortage of employee resources. Our staff is working from home and are still able to work on all cases, return all emails and return all telephone calls. All in-person meetings are temporarily cancelled, but we can still receive and send documents and files by scanning and attaching to an email, or Google Drive, etc. If you’re not sure how to do this, we are happy to help.