As COVID-19 (commonly referred to as the new "Coronavirus") has continued to spread, businesses, schools, and even the courts are taking precautions to mitigate the effects of the disease. Right now, most businesses and schools are employing a policy of Social Distancing. The Center for Disease Control is recommending that citizens avoid unnecessary in-person contact. Obviously, this will create some challenges for conducting mediations, depositions and client meetings.
As of March 13, courts throughout the state of Texas are closing their contested dockets absent an emergency situation. If you're in the middle of a family law case, this can be extremely jarring. Don't panic! You have options, and we're here to help you navigate these changes. If you have a non-emergency hearing in March, that hearing is cancelled. Due to the uncertainty of the situation, we are unable to to determine dates for rescheduling.
The best thing you can do right now is work on settlement. Try to work on a "band-aid" agreement for temporary orders regarding child custody while your case is pending. If it's agreed on, no court hearing is necessary. You can also try to go through a mediation. Mediation is a necessary step before a final hearing in all Texas family law cases. The goal is to resolve every issue, though it's okay if you walk out only agreeing on some. We offer remote mediation services and online booking, so no travel is necessary.
The State Bar of Texas has also issued the following orders, listed below:
· The first order empowers Texas courts to modify or suspend certain deadlines and procedures, allow parties to participate remotely in proceedings, and take other reasonable steps to avoid exposing court proceedings to the threat of coronavirus.
· The second order applies to and clarifies possession schedules in Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.
· The third order amended the original order to establish court proceedings that may be conducted away from the court’s usual location with reasonable notice and access to the participants and the public. The change omits reference to the county-venue limitation in the original order.
· The fourth order supplemented the three previous orders, addressing hearings, trials, and deadlines for residential-property evictions.
· The Office of Court Administration has released updated guidance on court procedures for the coronavirus. You can read the guidance here.
If you have questions about what to do in your particular case, give us a call. We'll help you navigate settlement to make the most out of this process.