News & Resources Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)
We’re here to help with court information, safety tips, and even a little humor during these trying times.
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You can take action right now to ensure your affairs are in order as we move through this time of uncertainty. Learn about the options available to you for getting started.
Superior Courts in California have limited operations during the outbreak. Some courts are hearing matters related to probate. Learn what this means for you. Click or tap on your county for the latest information.
County of San Bernardino
(September, 2020) – In San Bernardino County, the Probate Court reopened on May 29, and previously set hearings resumed on June 15. Confirm hearing dates and times on the court’s website. Face coverings and social distancing are required. Before you go to court, view this flyer below for enhanced security measures. You may not be allowed to enter into the courthouse unless your case is being heard or your filing is being accepted inside.
The probate clerk’s office offers services from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (lobby and phones). Face coverings and social distancing required. Access to the clerk’s office is limited to temporary guardianships and conservatorships, special letters (emergency), ex parte petitions, elder abuse harassment, behavioral health, lodging of wills, certified orders and letters with bond (only if heard that day), and preemptory challenges (CCP section 170.6 & 170.1 motions). All other filings must be filed by dropbox, fax, or mailed.
Click Here to visit the SB-Court.org website for the latest court news updates and legal notices released by the Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino.
County of Orange
(November 2020) – Unfortunately, the number of positive COVID cases in Orange County is increasing at an alarming rate, forcing the County to return to the Purple Tier. We did not modify the safety protocols we have implemented at the Court when we moved from Purple to the less restrictive Red Tier, therefore we are not implementing any new safety protocols at this time as we move back into the Purple Tier. In addition, because the Court is an essential service and our reopening efforts are not directly tied to the tier system, we do not anticipate any modification to our current operational plans.
The courthouses of Orange County Superior Court remain open for limited in-person services. Members of the public should NOT visit a courthouse unless they have been notified by the Court that they have an in-person hearing or they have scheduled an appointment to enter the building for counter services.
This approach allows the Court to manage the visitor level at each courthouse, while following health protocols. The Court is continually working to provide Safe Access to Justice and requires face coverings for anyone entering a courthouse. Exemptions issued by anyone other than the Court will not be honored.
For Court ADA accommodations and exclusions, please email ADAinformation@occourts.org or visit: http://www.occourts.org/directory/ada/. Social distancing rules will also be strictly enforced in all facilities; thus, the number of individuals entering public courtrooms and elevators will be subject to space limitations. Persons displaying possible coronavirus symptoms will not be allowed to enter Court facilities.
Kostas Kalaitzidis | Public Information Officer
Orange County Superior Court
Click Here to visit the OCCourts.org website for the latest court news updates and legal notices released by the Superior Court of California, County of Orange.
County of Riverside
NOTE: Riverside Superior court will begin closing one Friday of every month and will be closed on Friday, March 19, 2021.
(September, 2020) – In the probate division of Riverside County, the following essential matters continue to be heard telephonically: temporary guardianship and temporary conservatorship cases, LPS conservatorships, ex parte elder abuse restraining orders, requests to renew restraining orders, ex parte applications, stipulations, guardianship status reports, and petitions for compromise of disputed claims of minors and persons with disabilities.
Effective 5/11/2020, all probate documents will be accepted for filing and are to be submitted by eSubmit, U.S. Mail, or dropped off in a dropbox located at Riverside Historic Courthouse, Temecula Courthouse, or Palm Springs Courthouse. Only those documents related to the essential matters (above) can be delivered in-person to the Hall of Justice, Larson Justice Center, or Southwest Justice Center.
Effective 5/18/2020, in-person hearings will be permitted for Elder Abuse Restraining Orders at the temporary location at Riverside Historic Courthouse or Larson Justice Center.
Effective 8/3/2020, the temporary location at Southwest Justice Center is being added to permit in-person hearings for Elder Abuse Restraining Orders.
You can also check the status of your case online: https://www.riverside.courts.ca.gov/OnlineServices/SearchCourtRecords/public-access.php
Probate Investigator interviews will be conducted telephonically or by other remote means.
All hearings are being held telephonically through Webex. The phone numbers for the different departments are on the court’s website: https://www.riverside.courts.ca.gov/Divisions/Probate/Telephonic-Appearances.pdf
Click Here to visit the Riverside.courts.ca.gov website for the latest court news updates and legal notices released by the Superior Court of California, County of Riverside.
County of Los Angeles
(November, 2020) – PRESIDING JUDGE KEVIN C. BRAZILE ISSUES ORDER TO LIMIT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE ALLOWED IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY COURTHOUSES AMID SPIKE IN COUNTY AND STATEWIDE COVID-19 INFECTIONS
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, public access to courthouses is restricted to authorized persons only and measures to enforce social distancing in courthouse hallways and courtrooms will be strictly enforced as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge in Los Angeles County, Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile announced today.
The General Orders the Court issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic prompted lawsuits from civil litigants seeking to have the Court adjudicate their cases. While some attorneys sought jury trials, other attorneys objected to coming into court during a pandemic.
Recently, despite mandatory and previous General Orders (See General Orders filed June 5, 2020, July 6, 2020, and October 13, 2020) requiring the use of face masks and social distancing and ubiquitous signage in each courthouse reiterating the face mask and social distancing mandates, attorneys, litigants, and others routinely remove their masks, wear their mask improperly, and/or fail to observe social distancing while in courthouses. Non-compliance with the basic protective measures that this Court has repeatedly required by way of prior General Orders to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus may increase COVID-19 infections.
Under General Order (2020-GEN-25-00) issued today:
- Public access to courthouses is limited at all times to judicial officers, court employees, co-lessees, Judicial Council staff, vendors, jurors, mediators, authorized persons (including news media representatives and news reporters), attorneys, litigants and witnesses with matters on calendar, and individuals with confirmed appointments.
- In the interest of enforcing social distancing and to reduce the number of people in courthouses, effective Monday, November 30, 2020, members of the public, not otherwise referenced above, who wish to attend a court proceeding may do so upon advance request and at the discretion of the judicial officer presiding over the matter. Instructions on how to make such a request are available on the Court’s website at the Here for You | Safe for You page. All persons attending remotely must comply with applicable California Rules of Court, including Rule 1.150.
NEW ORDER 2-2-2-2
There shall be no recording by anyone of the court proceeding, hearing or trial.
- Attorneys, litigants, witnesses and authorized persons are prohibited from gathering with or speaking to anyone outside their household in courthouse hallways or public areas of the Court unless they can do so at least six feet apart from each other and while wearing masks over their nose and mouth.
- To enforce social distancing, each court department shall schedule only the number of matters during each session as it can accommodate consistent with social distancing requirements in courtrooms and outside hallways of the courthouse.
- Eating in courthouse hallways and courtrooms by the public shall be prohibited at all times.
- Sheriff’s Department personnel are directed to enforce the mandatory face mask requirement and social distancing protocols in courthouses (2020-GEN-016).
Since the resumption of court services on June 15 and phased resumption of hearings began on June 22 in all 38 courthouses, the Court:
- Equipped all 600 courtrooms across the county with remote courtroom appearance technology;
- Required masks (without valves) be worn over the nose and mouth inside courthouses, unless medically certified as an exception;
- Posted social distancing signs to limit the number of people allowed in hallways, courtrooms and elevators;
- Provided hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in key traffic areas, and increased cleaning of restrooms and high-touch surfaces;
- Installed over 5,600 plexiglass barriers at security screening stations, public counters and courtrooms;
- Provided drop boxes outside each courthouse; and
- Required advance appointments for in-person service at the Clerk’s Office and Self-Help Centers. Call centers at each courthouse are available to reserve appointments for in-person service and get answers to questions. Contact the call centers at this link: http://www.lacourt.org/newsmedia/ui/pdf/CALLCENTERPHONENUMBERSfinal.pdf.
The Court is operating under its Here For You | Safe For You initiative to provide a safe courthouse environment while offering services that allow court business to be conducted remotely. Whether appearing by phone, from home, the office or coming to the courthouse, the Court provides safe, efficient options to access justice. The Court’s remote courtroom appearance technology options promote social distancing by reducing the number of people appearing in person.
County of San Diego
(September, 2020) – The probate court in San Diego County is now open for most business operations. The court is hearing all regularly scheduled hearings (guardianships, conservatorships, decedent’s estates, trusts, etc.). Hearings are limited to video or telephone conference only. All probate hearings are currently heard by CourtCall, including trials and contested hearings. Effective November 2, 2020, probate hearings will be heard using Microsoft Teams telephone/video conference. No personal appearances are allowed until further notice.
Visit (http://www.sdcourt.ca.gov/) for the latest notices from the Superior Court of California in San Diego County.
Frequently Asked Questions
We know that families have many questions about how the pandemic affects their estate planning or probate matters. Our attorneys have provided insights to address some of the common areas of confusion that many are experiencing right now.
What can I do to be proactive in managing my custody case during COVID-19?
Contact your attorney. There is a lot of confusion regarding what to do, especially as it relates to parenting plans and their apparent contradiction with shelter in place orders. Before reaching out to the other parent, it is a good idea to review your court order, in detail, with your attorney. You should have a firm grasp on your rights, your orders, and your potential access to the courts should an emergency arise. This will allow you to have a more structured conversation with the other parent, without unnecessarily arguing about wrong information.
Stay updated. Over the past few weeks, we have seen drastic changes in recommendations about how to be safe. Do not spend all your time tracking statistics and reading horror stories. However, do remain aware of executive orders and safety protocol recommendations. You should follow these recommendations. Not only is this the right thing to do, it also helps ensure that you are not placing your children at risk in the eyes of the court.
Communicate with the other parent. This is a time for us to come together, for our children. Make sure that you ask questions, express your concerns, and communicate about how to best keep your children safe. This is not a time for accusations, or attacks. Effective co-parenting should include planning ahead in the event that one house becomes exposed to COVID-19.
Keep your children out of it. The more vocal you are about your concerns with your children spending time with the other parent, the more likely you are to confuse them, stress them out, and place them in a constant state of fear. Do educate your children on safety protocols and world events but keep conversation age appropriate. Choose your words carefully; what you say may be inadvertently alienating your children from the other parent.
Can I get an emergency order from the court for custody?
Currently, every county in Southern California has the ability to issue emergency orders relating to custody. The custody requests that the courts will hear are limited to matters that place a child in immediate or irreparable harm. In light of COVID-19, these issues may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Is there a heightened risk factor for the child, such as an underlying health condition?
- Is there a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to a refusal by one parent to abide by safety precautions, shelter in place orders, and/or other orders such as social distancing?
- Does one parent work in a critical infrastructure field such as health care? If so, are there adequate safety precautions in place?
These factors are considerations. Working in the health care industry does not, in and of itself, create an emergency. Every case is different. Your success in obtaining a court order is going to depend on a myriad of factors and circumstances.
The procedure for making this request may also vary from county to county. It is important to discuss the process with your attorney, and whether the factors currently present in your case are warranting court relief. If your current situation does not present itself as a true emergency, there are different options and avenues that you may pursue during this time to keep your family safe.
Can I delay a custody exchange due to shelter in place orders?
If a parent or child has a health-related issue, that issue can and should be communicated to the other parent. Courts consider each parent equally capable of caring for a child during this time and expect each parent to comply with social distancing standards. However, the other parent’s failure to comply, in the eyes of the other parent, with proper social distancing is not a ground to deny visitation. Courts require and expect that each party cooperate with respect to child custody and visitation orders and will enforce those orders. If either parent violates a court order without good cause, the court can find that parent in contempt of court and consider any violation in modifying custody and visitation.
Should you have a legitimate safety concern related to the children and the shelter in place order, take advantage of the free visitation plan assessments we are offering during the COVID-19 crisis. You may have additional options based on specific safety concerns. Every case is unique.
My ex is keeping me from my child because she thinks I am exposed to COVID. What are my options at this point?
If you are being denied access to your child, your efforts to see your child should be documented. In addition, an attorney can assist you in obtaining orders for child custody and visitation. Denial of visitation rights without good cause can be a basis to modify child custody and visitation.
I don’t think my ex is taking this pandemic seriously. How can I get him to take the precautions that I want him to in order to protect the children from COVID-19?
You can certainly provide your ex with guidelines and orders you are able to locate, and request that the guidelines and orders be followed. Doing so in a polite and non-accusatory fashion is more likely to be received positively by your ex and considered positively by the Court. Neither parent has a right to demand that the other parent comply with his or her parenting style, but both parents have an obligation to make parenting decisions in the best interests of the child to ensure the child’s health, safety and welfare.
When your child is with you, you are in total control of social distancing and health-based choices. Likewise, your ex has total control of social distancing and health-based choices on his or her time. Shared custody necessarily means that different standards may often apply in different households, and each parent is expected to respect the other parent’s decisions. Only serious, obvious and indisputable endangerment of a child’s health and safety can or should be brought to the attention of the Court or appropriate social services agency, bearing in mind that resources are unusually limited.
I am not the custodial parent and I lost my job due to COVID-19 related work stoppage. How can I modify support payments if the courts are closed?
Please contact an attorney immediately if you lost your job due to a COVID-related work stoppage. Also, immediately provide your attorney with all documentation relating to your work stoppage or layoff. You should immediately apply for governmental assistance to the extent that is available, as Courts will expect all such remedies to be explored and exhausted.
I am the custodial parent and my ex lost his job due to COVID-19 related work stoppage. He says he can’t make support payments. What are my options? I don’t want to struggle!
While such a work stoppage is a change in circumstances that can give rise to a modification of support, you as the other parent can defend such a request by demonstrating that other forms of employment are available. We therefore encourage you to search for and find openings in your area and provide that information to your ex. To the extent he or she fails to pursue any leads you provide, such a failure can be considered by a court in deciding whether or to what extent to modify support.
You should also inquire as to whether your ex has applied for governmental assistance to the extent that is available, as Courts will expect all such remedies to be explored and exhausted. Please contact an attorney immediately if your ex lost a job due to a COVID-related work stoppage and has either stopped or reduced payments.
I just can’t with my spouse anymore. I want to file for divorce—can I even petition right now? What would the timeline look like?
Despite breakdowns in the court system, this is an excellent time to file for divorce, particularly for the self-employed or for those who historically were higher earners and now find themselves in challenging financial times. Your exposure to child and spousal support is less than it would otherwise be. The key is to make sure that you can reasonably afford to live in different households during this unprecedented timeframe. It is still possible to proceed with paperwork and remain in the same home if no other options are currently available.
How can a restraining order protect me if I am sheltering in place with my abuser?
A domestic violence restraining order can give you peace of mind and body, as well as the opportunity to obtain temporary use, possession and control over a residence. You should contact an attorney immediately if you believe you have been the victim of domestic violence.
What should I do if the other parent has left with our child?
You should contact an attorney immediately if the other parent has left with your child to explore the options available to you. If you do not have a court order and believe that your child has been kidnapped, you should contact law enforcement. If you have a court order and believe that the order is being violated, there may be remedies available to you including contempt proceedings and a request to modify your existing child custody and visitation order.
How can I file a paternity action if the courts are closed?
Many courts are accepting filings, and those that are not will generally receive documents. Since it takes time to prepare paternity actions, it is best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible and to develop an action plan both for settlement and eventual litigation purposes.
When will I be able to enforce my visitation?
While these are unprecedented times, there will be opportunities in the near future to pursue enforcement of visitation orders. You should consult with an attorney as soon as possible to begin documenting your efforts to obtain visitation and the other parent’s refusal to comply so that these circumstances can be properly communicated in writing to the court at the appropriate time.
My property settlement has not been paid; how can I enforce it?
There are many ways to enforce property settlements including judgment liens and writs of execution. In addition, property settlements due on a particular date may be subject to interest at the legal rate that continues to accrue and accumulate for as long as they remain unpaid. You should consult with an attorney as soon as possible if you have an unpaid property settlement to explore the options available to you.
With everything going on with the stock market, what if we are going through a divorce and disagree about what to do with investments?
If you and your spouse disagree with the current strategy of an invested asset, the first approach is to notify the other spouse of your desire to divide the asset by mutual agreement so that you can have control over investing your portion. If this does not succeed, you will have documented your desire and may have a claim against the other spouse for refusing to make reasonable and good faith efforts to safeguard your assets, bearing in mind few courts will fault either party for the unprecedented drop in value of investment assets due to fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak.
It’s important to understand the social impacts of what we are currently living through. The news features below provide insight into the phenomena that arise during this unprecedented time.
We’ll continue to curate information found online and deliver it here, in a filtered view for easy consumption.
“This time of isolation could be a period of great growth or great struggle in your relationship.”
Here’s the macabre truth: With hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country—and the death toll steadily rising—estate planners are reporting an increase in calls and transactions by people wanting to put their affairs in order in case of their death.
Read Full Article
Courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle
Estate planning can be complex even when there is ample time to prepare for the worst, let alone during a fast-moving and deadly pandemic that has sparked panic in financial markets and across the global economy. Experts say, however, that there are a number of universal tips people can follow.
Read Full Article
Courtesy of Barron’s
Many people find it easy to put off estate planning decisions. They don’t have a will when they know they should. They have undergone a major life change — a divorce or death in the family — but haven’t updated existing documents. The current crisis is pushing people into action.
Read Full Article
Courtesy of Tampa Bay Times
Being quarantined together is trying even for happy couples. For those going through a divorce or in a dysfunctional relationship, it can be harrowing.
When Sally* moved back to the U.S. a few years ago, she had hoped it would be a fresh start. Her marriage had been shaky since the recession, and she wanted to give the relationship a second chance. But things took a turn.
Read Full Article
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer
COVID-19 prompted a rush of updates because financial situations have changed or families have grown. The situation is especially true among first responders and medical workers. These frontline workers fear on-the-job contact will kill them and leave grieving family members with no clear instruction about what should happen to their children and finances.
Read Full Article
Courtesy of USA Today
Serving Our Communities
Still strong and thankful for the many volunteers at Big Brothers Big Sisters. During this difficult time, we remain committed to all of our Bigs, Littles and their families. We want to do our part to keep them safe and healthy, and also ensure they do not lose the valuable relationships they’ve built through our program.