If there is one thing that Family Law Lawyers have learned during this COVID-19 pandemic, it is that there is so much we do not know about how to navigate the justice system with all these rapid changes caused by this pandemic.
Let’s take one example. The Superior Court of Justice suspended ALL scheduled hearings indefinitely, starting March 17, 2020. The courts, however, will continue to hear urgent matters during this emergency period, including:
- requests for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent (e.g., a restraining order, other restrictions on contact between the parties or a party and a child, or exclusive possession of the home);
- urgent issues that must be determined relating to the well-being of a child including essential medical decisions or issues relating to the wrongful removal or retention of a child;
- dire issues regarding the parties’ financial circumstances including for example the need for a non-depletion order;
- in a child protection case, all urgent or statutorily mandated events including the initial hearing after a child has been brought to a place of safety, and any other urgent motions or hearings.
What then can be done in a situation where a custodial parent denies access visits to the access parent? Is this a wrongful retention of a child so that the issue can be heard at this time? It is certainly not related to the child or parent’s safety. But really, is it wrongful retention?
If it isn’t, as is most likely the case, is the access parent powerless to do anything during this emergency period?
Thankfully, if a parent failed to return a child after March Break as provided in a court order, it clearly would be a case of wrongful retention. But is it? Couldn’t that party just argue that the government extended the March break and so they really are not violating the order?
What if a parent has concerns about the hygiene conditions at the other parent’s home and refuses to allow the child to visit the home, thereby blocking that parenting time with the child? It is urgent because it surely relates to the safety of the child at this time – Right? Well…. could be wrong.
As with everything COVID-19, we seem to be left with more questions than answers but be not dismayed. At AP Lawyers, we are following the developments closely, asking questions, and getting answers where possible (frankly, the authorities are still trying to figure most of it out).
What you can always count on is our creativity in getting solutions and that matters now, more than ever. We remain open to serve you via Video Conference, Skype, Telephone, Email, and Live Chat.
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