I was hoping not to write a pandemic article, and hopefully there will not be a follow up one to this. As I write this, the Family and Supreme Courts are closed for other than essential matters- family offense; abuse/neglect; juvenile arraignments. However, Courts are now starting to conference ongoing cases via Skype, and it is my expectation that practice will increase. Here are some things to consider during this time:
1. Domestic violence- As is reported in the news, incidents of domestic violence are on the rise. While there may be many reasons for this, there are no excuses. The fact that we are locked in place, having financial problems, etc. does not give anyone license to abuse their loved ones, or anyone else. If you believe that you are the victim of physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse, contact your local police or the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (“OPDV”) . If you question if the treatment you are receiving is abuse, think of it this way- if I did it, would it be OK? While simplistic, it does give you something to think about. If you are the perpetrator of abuse, contact OPDV for support resources. Admitting you have a problem is a strength, not a weakness
2. Child and Spousal Support- Your former spouse and children still need to eat. If you are out of work but receiving unemployment insurance benefits, at least pay your proportionate share of those benefits . Let the other person know the situation so he is not surprised to receive less money. While Family Court may not be accepting modification petitions, at least fill one out and mail it with some type of proof of mailing (i.e., date stamp), so that you can try to make the modification retroactive to the time of your “filing”.
3. Custody- A psychologist who spoke at a recent webinar sponsored by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals stressed how important it is for children to maintain some sense of stability in tumultuous times. She counseled that, unless there is a health issue or risk, children should continue their regular custodial schedule during the pandemic. In fact, several states have passed legislation on this issue. While I do not know how New York courts will look at violations at the end of this, I imagine that parents who, without good cause, held back children, will be dealt with sternly.
4. Court Cases- If you have a trial or other court matter that was scheduled during the shutdown. It will be rescheduled. When? I have no idea!
5. Attorneys- While we are not working in a traditional capacity, we are still working. I cannot meet with someone in person, but I can speak on the phone or do a remote conference. Executive Orders allow us to notarize documents or even execute a Will remotely.
Be smart and safe and stay home!
May 2020 Margaret Tabak