How COVID-19 is Changing Domestic Court Operations

How COVID-19 is Changing Domestic Court Operations
August 13, 2020 Shannon Dawes
Divorce and dissolution under Ohio law.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause infections and death across the country, there appears to be a growing consensus among government leaders and citizens alike that businesses and government operations need to resume safely. This includes the business of the courts, which were impacted and impaired by the spread of the virus over the spring. While court operations have resumed in Franklin County domestic court and elsewhere, it is clear that it is not yet “business as usual.”

Changes to Domestic Court Cases During COVID-19

The Ohio Supreme Court’s website maintains a database of the rules and procedures each court in Ohio has imposed on their operations because of COVID. Parties in domestic cases can expect:

  • Participating in hearings remotely is encouraged. There are some hearings that require evidence to be presented, such as child custody hearings and contested divorces. Many courts throughout the state, though, are encouraging parties to appear by telephone or by using videoconference software like Zoom. Check with the court or with your attorney about whether you can appear remotely for your hearing.
  • Your case may be rescheduled to another day. Some judges are rearranging their schedules so as to hold in-person hearings on certain days and reserve other days for remote or videoconference hearings. This means your case may be moved to another day to accommodate the presiding judge’s court schedule. Make certain that your attorney and the court have your updated contact information so that you can be notified if there are such changes.
  • Reasonable continuance requests will be granted. Continuances in your domestic case may be frustrating, as a continuance delays the entry of a final order or finding by the court. If you are attempting to secure a divorce, for example, a continuance of the final hearing will postpone your ability to receive a decree of divorce. Courts in Franklin County and elsewhere have clearly signaled that they will grant requests for continuances (even over the other party’s objections) so long as the continuance requests are reasonable.
  • Changes to normal operating procedures are in place. These include limiting the number of people in the courtrooms and courthouses, encouraging or mandating the wearing of masks and personal protective equipment, and restricting people’s movements once inside the courthouse. Be prepared for these modifications, and be patient. If a bailiff or other court personnel asks you do move somewhere or put on PPE, it is best to comply. These individuals have the authority to remove you from the courthouse, which can not only make you miss your hearing but can result in criminal charges if you resist.
  • Courts are responding differently to local conditions. Courts in Ohio may be operating under different restrictions and protocols, depending on the local conditions. This means you cannot assume, for example, that the manner in which Franklin County courts are operating is the same way that courts in Allen County. It is highlyadvisable, therefore, that you and your attorney review the local rules and procedures that the court you are to appear in have implemented.

Trust Dawes Legal, LLC to Guide You Through These Times

Your domestic law legal needs do not go away during a pandemic. Trust Dawes Legal, LLC to help you achieve your family law objectives even during times of crisis and uncertainty. Our firm stays abreast of current developments in the court system so that we are able to quickly and effectively help our clients.

If you need legal assistance with a child custody dispute, divorce, or other domestic matter, call Dawes Legal, LLC at (614) 733-9999 today.