Written by Michele T. LoBello, Esq.

How will my family court case be affected by COVID-19?

Updated 03/18/2020

Is​ the Family ​​Court​​ open?​​ ​

The short answer is, yes. Following Governor Sisolak’s declaring ​​a state of emergency in Nevada in response to the ​​outbreak of Corona​​virus Disease, ​​Nevada Chief ​​Court​​ Justice Pickering and Eighth Judicial District ​​Court​​ Chief Judge Bell ​​issued Administrative Order 20-01 on March 13, 2020, which dictates ​​alterations to ​​Court​​ procedure to protect the community.​​ ​District ​​Court​​ will continue to accept filings and manage cases.  ​​ ​

While the ​​Court​​houses are physically open, ​​restrictions on those who may enter consistent with CDC​​ prevention recommendations​​ have been implemented.  ​​This ​​includes ​​those who have traveled to a country designated as ​​a Level 3 travel health notice, ​​those who live with or have close contact with such a person, ​​anyone who has been diagnosed with ​​Coronavirus, directed to ​​self-quarantine ​​or who has unexplained fever, cough or shortness of ​​breath.​​ ​

If you are unable to appear in ​​Court​​ due to these restrictions, ​​you may contact 702-455-4472. Our office will assist you with either rescheduling or filing the appropriate paperwork to allow you to appear​ by alternative means.

Presiding Family Court Judge Duckworth ha​​s provided the following ​​directives as to Family Court cases specifically:​​ ​FMC Mediations will take place by telephone, ​ child interviews at FMC will be suspended temporarily

 

I have supervised visitation through Donna's House, what is going to happen?

Donna’s House, the Court annexed supervised visitation service, is ​​suspended, but supervised visitation exchanges may still be conducted at the Courthouse.​​  If you require private services for supervised visits, reach out and we will share resource options.​​ ​

Will I be asked to appear at my hearing in person?

Essential hearing​​s​​ ​​include​​ ​​domestic temporary and extended protective orders, ​​juvenile delinquency matters, ​​abuse and neglect preliminary hearings, ​​high-risk protective orders,​​ most​​ ​​guardianship ​​matters, ​​civil commitment cases​​ and​​ ​​probate petitions for orders of cremation​​.  Nevertheless, ​​all participating in these essential hearings are encouraged to appear by alternative means, ​​especially in the case of elderly and infirm litigants.​​ ​

Non-essential hearings ​​were to be either (1) conducted by video or phone; (2) decided without a hearing on the papers; or (3) rescheduled​​ unless otherwise directed by ​​a ​​Judge​​.​​ ​

The Order describes “essential” hearing​​s​​, and this ​​does ​​not​​ include ​​hearings related to ​​matters concerning divorces, child custody, child support and alimony, orders affecting property and debts and the like.  ​​However, case by case exceptions may be ordered at the discretion of a ​​Judge.  ​​ ​

Is my upcoming trial going to be delayed or rescheduled?

All but currently ongoing jury trials will be ​​rescheduled.  ​​Although bench trials are not expressly suspended, each Department has the discretion to do so or to direct that alternative methods be pursued (including participation through audio-visual means – “​bluejeans​”).  This is something that is up to each Department (otherwise, the AO would have simply suspended all trials).  This might be determined not only Department by Department, but case by case.  ​​ ​​

How can I best co-parent with my ex during this challenging time?

Leaders​​ from groups who deal in family crisis recommend as follows:​​ ​

Comply with CDC, local and State guidelines to stay healthy and provide your children with a good example.  ​Wash hands,​ keep frequently touched areas and objects clean and practice social distancing.​​ ​

Avoid getting information from social media.

Instead stay informed by keeping in touch with reliable media sources or your State and CDC information portals.​​ ​

Be appropriate in sharing information with your children based on their ages.

Do not instill fear and dread by allowing overexposure to the media or any sources that convey information carelessly.  Encourage the children to ask questions and let them know it is fine for them to discuss their concerns with you and the other parent.​​ ​

Follow Court Orders and custody agreements as much as possible.

Communicate with the other parent where challenges fulfilling the Orders are presented.  Be creative and work together to follow the schedule, and the spirit of shared parenting, as much as possible.  If there are barriers to visitation due to the current limitations on travel and gathering, encourage the children and other parent to communicate often through other means.  Facetime, Skype and the phone are wonderful methods to keep families in contact and bonded.​​ ​

Communicate and be honest with your co-parent.

Share all information regarding your children’s contact with others, any symptoms exhibited by the children or anyone with whom they have had contact.  This is the time to work together, to communicate and to be understanding and put the kids first.  That does not mean either parent’s right to participate and communicate is to go by the wayside.  If a visit can’t happen, agree to make up time as soon as it is possible.  Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take serious concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.  ​​If someone is having a hard time paying bills, including support, see what can be worked out to assure everyone’s needs are being met, especially the children’s​​.​​

​Again, reasonable and rational communication is the key to mitigating the impact of this crisis on children of separated parents.​​

I cannot afford to pay my Court ordered child support and/or alimony on April 1, 2020. Must I pay?

You​​ must pay ​​Court​​ ordered support so long as your Order is in effect.  If you have experienced a material change in financial circumstances (a 20% or greater reduction in income), you should file seeking to adjust the amount of support you owe​​ as soon as possible.  The ​​Court​​ has the authority to retroactively modify your support obligation​​ to the date of filing the request.  B&L can ​​provide you this service​​, but you do not necessarily require a lawyer to handle such requests.  The Clark County Family ​​Court​​ self-help website ​​provides the information and forms to assist you in filing yourself.

I do not want my child to travel out of town to visit the other parent due to risk of being infected with Coronavirus. Must I follow the Court Order for visitation?

Court​​ Orders must be followed, ​​but certainly ​​there is good reason to suspend travel at this time, consistent with public policy.  ​​First, communicate with the other parent and see if you can reach an agreement on visitation by alternative means and ​​at a later date​​.  The rest for any decision made about child custody​​ ​​is whether ​​the decision will serve the best interest of the child​​ (this is the standard for the ​​Court​​, and it should be the standard for both parents).  At this time, most children are not to be in school let alone ​​at an airport or other crowded place. ​​ ​​​Attempt to reach an agreement to reschedule the ​​visit, and​​ be sure there is plenty of ​​telephonic and other ​​virtual communication, and make sure you get the agreement in writing, signed by both parents.  If you are not able to get an agreement, you must act immediately if you want to postpone the visit out of town.  ​​As far in advance as possible, a motion can be filed in the Family ​​Court​​ seeking to modify the schedule, and a request for an emergency hearing on an Order Shortening Time can be sought.  Under such circumstances, the ​​Court​​ would likely agree to address the request immediately.  At this time, most of the Family ​​Court​​ Judges are only conducting hearings electronically, but such Motions can still be filed.

Our goal is to protect the health, safety and well-being of everyone involved, including attorneys, litigants and court staff.  We are hopeful that these policies will reduce the necessity of personal appearances in Court during the next 30 days, while at the same time allow litigants to maintain access to the Courts.  Because the situation is fluid, there may be changes as warranted.  We appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation as we enter this uncharted territory.  ​​Finally, the Order is in effect until it is ​​modified or rescinded by a subsequent Order, and ​​the Order will be reviewed no later than every 30 days.​​ ​

Should you require access to the Court, contact us at Black & ​LoBello​, as these Orders are generally resulting in the need for review of access on a case to case basis.  We are being notified by each Family Court Judge’s staff individually as to each ​particular Judge’s​ policy.

 

During this Stay Home 4 Nevada period, the Governor is encouraging other services, including but not limited to legal, business and management consulting, professional services and insurance services to have employees work remotely. Black & LoBello will remain “on-call” 24/7 to answer your emergency legal concerns at no charge. We know you are concerned but we are here for you.

Remember, this too shall pass. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be NEVADA STRONG

 

*Please note that the Coronavirus has caused information to change rapidly. While we are making every effort to keep this page updated for informational purposes, it is in no way to be construed as legal advice. Iif you need information related to your unique case, please contact us directly.*

Our Family Law Team

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