What is the divorce process like during COVID-19? Am I able to have a hearing when everything is shut down?
I do not practice law in your state. Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of your state, but I can provide you with general tips for this sort of issue.
Many clients who had ongoing divorce litigation when various court shutdowns occurred have had questions as to how their matter can continue to move through the court system.
In my state of Tennessee, our state Supreme Court entered an order that restricts all in-person court appearances to only those that meet certain criteria, many of those being emergency or constitutionally protected hearings. To have any other sort of hearing set in-person, the trial court judge must first be given approval by the state Supreme Court to conduct such a hearing in-person.
For that reason, most contested trials are not able to take place at this time. Based on our rules of procedure, it would be infeasible to be able to authentic and introduce exhibits, question no-party witnesses, etc., so most of those contested trial are being reset by the court or by proactive attorneys.
However, that is not to say that court hearings are not happening at all. Many counties across the country are making use of telephonic and video conference hearings to try to accommodate pre-trial motions hearings, so litigants are not without any form of relief for an indefinite period of time. These have become more and more common across our state, as counties become more prepared and better equipped to accommodate to the hand we’ve all been dealt.
There also are clients who have settled their divorce and filed all the paperwork to finalize their case that are wondering if that can still be done with courts shut down. The answer generally has been yes in this circumstance.
Most counties in the state of Tennessee require a brief final hearing to finalize all divorce actions. Some of our counties are suspending hearings and allowing attorneys to simply file final decrees for approvals. Some are requiring signed affidavits of the parties and waiving the hearings. Others are having the attorneys file joint notices. Others are allowing the parties to attend Zoom conferences, in lieu of in-person court appearances.
As always, I recommend all client to consult with an attorney on their county for these questions, but from what I have seen in my state and the counties in which I work, the courts have been doing everything within their power and being as creative as they can be to move cases along.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.