With the plague of COVID-19 and quarantine measures still affecting the court system, people may wonder how to go about asserting their legal rights. For instance, what can you do if you want a divorce? You could wait for the lockdown to end and seek marriage counseling, but if you feel your marriage is irretrievably broken, there are ways to forge ahead with divorce proceedings.
Under special rules in effect during the coronavirus emergency, you may be able to avoid having to appear in court. The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas remains under an emergency operations plan that restricts access to the courts. It provides that, whenever feasible, court proceedings should be conducted by Advanced Communication Technology (ACT), which allows for teleconference hearings over the internet. Moreover, courts can review and grant divorces without a hearing when all required documents are filed with the Department of Court Records.
You may be able to avoid a hearing altogether. If you can set aside the emotion that so often accompanies a divorce and focus on reaching a reasonable settlement, your attorney may be able to help you work out an agreement or consent order with your spouse on all or most of the salient issues. Another option is mediation, in which a trained professional guides negotiations between the two sides with the goal of working out a settlement agreement. Still another possibility is collaborative law, in which both parties have collaboratively trained attorneys, experienced in family law issues. The parties and counsel meet regularly to discuss and negotiate conflicts with the goal of meeting the interests of both parties. Mediation and collaborative law sessions can be conducted remotely using teleconferencing technology, with the parties remaining at home or meeting in their respective attorneys’ offices.
If a hearing via ACT is not feasible and alternative methods are unavailing, the divorce proceeding can still go forward. The discovery phase, which involves quantifying assets and debts and gathering other information and documents, occurs out of court. Discussions between attorneys often serve to resolve logistical issues. Eventually, a live hearing can be held, using protocols designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as masks or other protective equipment and social distancing once the court has determined that the emergency plan can be lifted.
The family law attorneys at Feldstein Grinberg Lang & McKee, P.C. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania can help you move through the divorce process in spite of the coronavirus quarantine. We will guide you through the procedure, communicate with your spouse’s attorney and others involved and do our best to make your divorce manageable in these trying times. Call us at 412-301-7395 or contact us online to schedule a conference.