Due to current concerns and the ongoing situation surrounding the COVID-19 virus, courts throughout the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey have closed their doors to the general public. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey are currently under stay-at-home orders for the foreseeable future. Pennsylvania’s Order is currently set to expire on May 8, 2020; however, New Jersey’s Order has no expiration date and will be in place indefinitely. Court closures can create uncertainty for many who are navigating difficult family law issues. However, there are still available remedies for many family law issues.
Victims of domestic violence are in a particularly difficult position, with many being isolated with their abuser. Although the Courts are closed to the general public, relief is still available for victims of domestic violence. Philadelphia and all surrounding counties are still holding emergency hearings and granting relief in the form of a temporary Protection from Abuse Order (“PFA”). A temporary PFA will go into effect immediately upon a showing of abuse or risk of imminent bodily harm. A temporary PFA can even evict the abuser from the home or residence of the victim.
Divorce, Mediation, & Your Options
Although divorce hearings may not be proceeding through the courts as planned, parties may still be able to settle their divorce matters. Our attorneys are still working remotely, which allows parties to engage in out of court settlement negotiations, such as mediation, to resolve any outstanding divorce issues absent the need for court intervention. Pennsylvania is temporarily allowing virtual notarization of documents, allowing any agreement reached between parties to be finalized safely and remotely.
Alimony & Modifying Support
Support filings are especially important during this crisis, as many are without income or receiving reduced income. Parties may file to modify their existing support obligation based on a change of circumstances. Although many courts are closed to in-person filings, you may electronically file a Petition to Modify Support.
You may also file an initial Complaint for Support requesting to receive child support or spousal support if there is currently no existing order in place. Although filing may not get parties immediate relief and will require a hearing to be scheduled, filing to modify or establish a support order as soon as possible is still very important. Any change to a support order will be retroactive to the date of filing. This means that you will get credit for any overpayments you may have made since the date of filing for the modification.
Additionally, if you are seeking to establish an order, the paying party will owe arrears from the date of filing until the date they start paying under the new order. Our attorneys can work with you to determine how much support you may be owed and can assist with electronic filings.
Most custody matters have been continued generally though the duration of the court closures. However, you may be able to seek emergency relief. Courts are still accepting filings in the case of a custody emergency and will hold a telephonic or videophonic conference with parties and counsel if necessary. What is considered an emergency is decided on a case-by-case basis. Our experienced attorneys can evaluate whether your case would be eligible for emergency relief through the court.
We Are Here To Help
This is a very uncertain and unprecedented time for all. Although courts may remain closed, you still have options for seeking relief. Our attorneys can discuss your options during the duration of court closures. The attorneys at Sadek and Cooper Law Offices have handled hundreds of divorce, custody, support, and Protection from Abuse cases in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties of Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester. We are also licensed in the State of New Jersey. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation at 215-545-0008.