The current global pandemic known as COVID-19 has affected nearly every single aspect of society as we know it, including the New York State court system. For the past few weeks, the courts and Governor Andrew Cuomo have issued many administrative orders and press releases delineating the exact impacts the pandemic has had on the courts, which has evolved almost daily.

The bottom line is that the courts have temporarily closed to pending matters and new filings with limited exceptions for emergencies and “essential matters.”

What are essential matters?

With respect to family court, that means that all pending non-emergency cases originally scheduled for March and probably April (at minimum) will adjourn to later dates. The court will notify all affected parties and attorneys by mail. However, courts will still hear and accept the following essential matters:

  • Child protection intake cases involving removal applications.
  • Recently filed juvenile delinquency intake cases involving remand placement applications, including modifications.
  • Emergency family offense petitions and temporary orders of protection.
  • Orders to Show Cause.
  • Stipulations on Submission.

Our firm handles the third, fourth, and fifth bullet points and described in greater detail below.

Emergency family offense petitions and temporary orders of protection

If you find yourself in an untenable or dangerous situation with a spouse, partner, family member, or someone you live with whose presence in the home makes you feel unsafe, you are still permitted to request a temporary order of protection in the New York City family courts. You would file in the county in which you reside. Our firm handles order of protection cases daily and we are more than happy to take care of the filing for you.

Additionally, all temporary orders of protection have been extended to the next court appearance pursuant to Administrative Order 68/20.Therefore, for example, if a temporary order of protection was issued in your case and your next court appearance was supposed to be March 20, 2020, and the temporary order of protection was set to expire on that date (March 20, 2020), that temporary order of protection is extended to the next court appearance date. The court will, of course, notify you and your attorney of that date.

If you are a protected party and the respondent violates the temporary order of protection, please give us a call.

Orders to show cause

Orders to show cause are another name for urgent applications in the family courts that may have to do with issues like custody, visitation, child protection, or non-payment of child support. Though the court’s administrative order is not 100% clear with respect to what type of Orders to show cause the courts will hear, it is likely the court will hear only true emergency or urgent matters.

Examples of an emergency or urgent matter could be one parent trying to remove the child from the country, child abuse by a parent or one parent removing the child from their health insurance coverage – which a court could view as a qualifying emergency during the current pandemic.

The courts may not accept filed applications concerning more general issues like withholding visitation depending on the individual circumstances. However, if you are a custodial parent and your child’s other parent refuses to return the child to you pursuant to your custody agreement or order, give us a call.

If you are a non-custodial parent and your child’s other parent is refusing to permit you visitation due to Coronavirus, give us a call so we can assess whether we believe the court would consider your case urgent at this time.

Stipulations on Submission

If you have a pending family court case, the court will accept fully executed settlement agreements and/or stipulations that resolve the entirety of your case. For example, if you and your child’s other parent have reached a custody agreement and would like to reduce the agreement to writing and submit it to the court, we can help you do so. This would have the effect of ending your case with the benefit of having no future court appearance dates.

What happens next

While it seems that everything has changed, your legal needs remain. No matter what your current situation, please give us a call so that one of our attorneys can assess your case and instruct you on the options available to you at this time.

More information can be found at http://www.nycourts.govor by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 833-503-0447.