In efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, on March 18, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme courts declared judicial emergency throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The order resulted in the closing of courts to the public through April 3, 2020 with exception to “essential functions,” like emergency child custody matters. After consideration, that order was extended until June 1, 2020.
While Philadelphia County still will continue to face restrictions to help cope with stopping the spread of the coronavirus, here is what you need to know regarding family courts as we enter the yellow phase.
Divorce and Alimony
The Philadelphia Family Court building is set to remain closed to the general public for the time being. Family Court services, conferences, hearings, and court proceedings will broadly be conducted through the use of modern communications technologies as defined in the General Statewide Judicial Emergency Orders issued by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on April 28, 2020 (Nos. 531 and 532 Judicial Administration Docket). Although there are new procedures in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic the Family Court reserves the right to require parties, counsel, and necessary witnesses to participate in face-to-face proceedings held in the Philadelphia Family Courthouse.
For now, cases with court dates will continue to wait for rescheduling, while new cases can pursue the path of mediation to reach a quicker resolution at this time.
Current Support Issues
Because courts are still closed, there are many Family law matters awaiting a court date for resolution. From prearranged custody agreements broken for the sake of safety during the pandemic to the inability to pay alimony on a reduced income, numerous cases are awaiting their court date. However, just because these cases are not yet being seen in court that does not mean that you should wait to address these issues until after courts reopen. We are able to file new support complaints and modifications of existing complaints at this time. Additionally, the client’s effective date is preserved as of the date of filing, meaning the sooner you file the better your modification could be.
Protection From Abuse
In regards to the Protection From Abuse Hearings and Orders, Emergency PFA relief will be available Monday through Thursday at the Stout Center for Criminal Justice following the listed schedule:
- During the week: Monday – Friday from 11:00 A.M. to 8:00 AM
- During the weekends: Friday – Monday from 11:00 A.M. to 8:00 AM
Information and assistance to file, prosecute, and defend against Protection from Abuse petitions is available through Sadek and Cooper 24/7.
Self-represented petitioners are directed to call the following number for the Domestic Violence Unit: 215-686-6311, during the above listed hours. Once contacted, the Domestic Violence Unit personnel will conduct a brief intake interview and obtain a valid email address and telephone number for each Self-Petitioner.
On March 23, 2020, the First Judicial District of Philadelphia defined the procedures to follow when filing an Emergency Custody Petition. The following steps list the documents necessary in order to file, but each individual case is different and should be consulted with an experienced attorney to ensure correct procedure and optimal results.
The following are the guiding step for filing an Emergency Custody Petition in Philadelphia until the Family Court reopens:
- An Emergency Custody Petition setting forth all relevant information and describing the emergency must be completed and verified by the Petitioner.
- The filing of an Emergency Custody Petition must be accompanied by the following:
- A Complaint for Custody if there is no pending custody matter and/or if a Custody Complaint has not been filed; or
- A Petition for Modification if a prior custody Order has been issued and the Emergency Petition seeks to modify the current custody Order; or
- A Petition for Contempt if Emergency Petition alleges that the current custody Order has not been complied with.
- A Domestic Relations Information Sheet must be completed and submitted. The Petitioner must provide a telephone number so the Court may contact him/her.
- A Criminal Record/Abuse History Verification must also be completed and submitted.
- Once all of the documents are complete, the Emergency Custody Petition along with the other documents must be forwarded to Family Court.
Sadek & Cooper is committed to keeping you updated on the Philadelphia court’s progression towards reopening through these unprecedented times. If you have any questions regarding emergency custody issues or whether your custody matter is an emergency, child support, divorce, or any other family law issues contact Sadek & Cooper for a free consultation on the best plan of action for your case.
The attorneys at Sadek and Cooper Law Offices have handled hundreds of divorce, custody, support, and mediation 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.