How Easing of COVID Rules is Affecting the NY Family Courts

As COVID-19 swept the country, court operations in New York came to a virtual standstill under lockdown orders. In-person trials, conferences and hearings were postponed indefinitely. Despite the innovative use of videoconferencing technology for some proceedings, case dockets swelled as new cases were being filed and older cases were on hold.

Now, as schools, restaurants and other businesses open, the New York state court system is also awakening from its COVID-19 induced slumber. As the number of vaccinated persons in the state increases, courts are gradually returning to in-person hearings and trials. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore stated recently that the state court system has received additional funding and will increase the number of judges and court personnel to handle the backlog of cases that arose because of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on New York family courts. Judges have been unable to keep up with individual cases involving child and spousal support agreements and parenting time schedules. These cases have arisen because the prolonged closing of businesses and related layoffs have impacted the ability of parties to meet their support obligations. In addition, the closing of schools had a marked effect on working parents, who had to scramble to arrange for childcare in the absence of open schools. Custodial parents were sometimes reluctant to send their children to spend time with their ex-spouse, not knowing who else might be in the household or what other circumstances might affect the child’s health and safety.

Now that schools are opening and the economy is recovering, ex-spouses may have to modify custody arrangements. Former spouses who were having difficulty meeting their child support obligations who are back at work can hopefully clear up unpaid obligations and other bills and make their required support payments going forward. The family courts’ reopening with additional judges, staff and funding should make it possible for parents to seek and obtain legal remedies where they are needed.

As a parent, you naturally want to keep your child safe but you should take care not to run afoul of your legal obligations under your parenting plan or support agreements. For advice on how to deal with visitation and support issues during the COVID-19 crisis, call the Law Office of Maurice J. Verrillo, P.C. in Rochester at 585-563-1134 or contact us online.


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