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.
View Courthouse Updates
Frequently Asked Questions
Serving Our Communities
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
(April 7, 2020) – In San Bernardino County, the Family Law Court is continuing to operate, however its functions are limited to addressing emergency matters only at the current time. Judges are still accepting requests for and granting emergency Temporary Domestic Violence Restraining Orders. Additionally, the Court is still hearing ex parte matters related to children. An ex parte (or emergency) matter regarding children must be a very serious emergency in order for the Court to actually agree to hear the matter. If a child will suffer immediate and irreparable harm if the Court does not hear the case, the Court will likely have a hearing and make orders as necessary.
San Bernardino is hearing these emergency matters in person, however strict social distancing protocol will be in effect, with at least 6 feet between all persons in the Courtroom at all time as well as not more than 10 people in any courtroom or lobby at a time.
This limited closure is in effect from now through April 30, 2020.
All matters currently set on the Court’s calendar through April 30, 2020 have been ordered continued. Parties/counsel will receive notice of these continuances but are advised not to go to the Courthouse or attempt to call in, as there is not sufficient staff available to respond at this time.
All temporary restraining orders currently in effect that are set to expire and/or set for hearing during this limited closure are ordered extended an additional 30 days.
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
(April 7, 2020) – The Orange County Family Law Courts are closed to the public until June 1, 2020. The Court is automatically continuing all matters set through June 1, 2020. The majority of the matters are being set for a Status Conference. The Court is sending Notices of the new dates. In addition, a large majority of these Notices are making orders that the parties/counsel meet and confer and attempt to resolve the matter before the next court date.
The Court has created a process for electronic submission of request for domestic violence restraining orders or child custody requests that involve an imminent threat of violence or death to a child.
The Court also made an Administrative Order that any supervised visitation is suspended however telephone or video supervised visitation shall be arranged per the existing supervised visitation provider.
The Court made an additional Administrative Order that specifically stated that the current non-school time is not treated as summer or vacation time and that the custody schedule shall continue as if the children are still attending school.
The Court also specifically stated that the current pandemic is not a reason to deny parenting time. The Court is encouraging people to discuss taking all steps to follow CDC guidelines to protect the children – however, the refusal to communicate is not a reason to deny visitation.
Finally, the court is in the process of setting up a Voluntary Settlement Conference process that will include the assistance of Judge Pro Tems in order to settle matters while the court is closed.
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
(April 7, 2020) – In Riverside County, the Family Law Court is continuing to operate, however its functions are limited to addressing emergency matters only at the current time. Our Judges are still accepting requests for and granting emergency Temporary Domestic Violence Restraining Orders. Additionally, the Court is still hearing ex parte matters related to children. An ex parte (or emergency) matter regarding children must be a very serious emergency in order for the Court to actually agree to hear the matter. If a child will suffer immediate and irreparable harm if the Court does not hear the case, the Court will likely have a telephonic hearing and make orders as necessary.
All matters of any kind currently on calendar through April 17, 2020 will be continued. It is likely that matters set through the end of April will also be continued, but the Court is trying to take things in shorter time increments, in hopes of getting back to regular business as soon as possible.
Requests for Orders (Requests for child or spousal support orders or for changes in those orders, as well as child custody and visitation requests) can be submitted to the Court. The Court will confirm it has received those motions, however at the current time they are not being filed or set for hearing, as the reduction in staff makes it impossible for the Courts to review all the new submissions.
New cases (new Petitions for Divorce or Petitions to Establish Paternity) may also be submitted to the Court, however as with the Requests for Order, they are not being actually filed and opened at this time. As soon as the Court is able, they will begin processing all the Requests for Orders and filing to open the new cases.
Judgments for Dissolution or Paternity cases, as above, can be submitted to Court however the Court is not actually processing these at this time due to the unavailability of Court staff.
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
(April 7, 2020) – the Los Angeles Superior Court is closed to the public effective March 23, 2020.
The Court is accepting filings electronically, but hearing dates are not being set at this time for family law matters.
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders and other Ex Parte, or emergency matters, are being submitted electronically.
Existing trial dates to and through June 22, 2020 are being continued as are family law hearing dates.
The Court is continuing to process Stipulated Judgments for Dissolution and Legal Separation.
Click Here to visit the LACourt.org website for the latest court news updates and legal notices released by the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles.
County of San Diego
(April 7, 2020) – In San Diego County, the Court is closed through April 30, 2020, with very limited exceptions in Family Law. The Court is still accepting requests for, and granting, emergency Temporary Domestic Violence Restraining Orders, including requests for Renewal of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders set to expire on or before April 30, 2020.
Beginning April 8, 2020, the Court will also begin accepting true ex parte applications, i.e., emergency matters where a child will suffer immediate and irreparable harm if the Court does not hear the case.
Procedure for ex parte applications is as follows: ex parte papers shall be submitted to the Court for judicial review. The clerk will set a hearing date, at which parties should appear to pick up their papers. The application will be granted or denied by the judge; no formal hearings will take place at this time. Please note that each Family Law division is operating with only one judge and one clerk, and ex parte services will be discontinued if manipulated or abused.
The Court currently is not accepting Summons, Petitions, or Requests for Orders for filing. The Court may provide a drop box for filing documents closer to the date the Court is scheduled to re-open; however, this option is not being considered at this time. Please do not attempt to submit Requests for Orders, Judgments, Stipulation, or any other non-emergency papers as an ex parte application.
All matters of any kind currently on calendar through April 30, 2020 will be continued. The Court will prioritize Domestic Violence Restraining Order hearings upon re-opening.
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.