The novel coronavirus has caused all but essential businesses to close temporarily. Most would think that the courts, our legal system, qualifies as essential, and those people would be right, to a point. The courts remain open, sort of. Let us explain.
On April 1, 2020, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued an amended order that states while the courts of the State remain open, all in-person proceedings in every court of the State is hereby suspended until May 1, 2020, and the closure may be extended if circumstances warrant.
What, exactly, does that mean if you have a family law matter?
First, if you have a pending case, you and your attorney have a duty to continue monitoring your case and proceeding as much as possible. Normal due dates may remain unless extended by the court. Discovery can continue. Courts can hold virtual case management conferences if they so desire. However, your trial date will of necessity need to be reset to a later date when in-person proceedings return.
Second, if you want to file a new case, you can. The courts continue to accept all online proceedings and process them as usual. If you file a new dissolution of marriage petition, it will be served electronically and by mail. Special process server usage has been waived during this difficult time. The deadline to answer a petition remains the same, so if you find your spouse has started a new case, you will need to retain legal counsel and avoid going into default.
Third, all emergency family law matters can be heard by the courts in whatever fashion the judge deems suitable, including in-person. For example, in the case of an emergency child custody order request brought on by an act of abuse, a judge could hear the matter in the courthouse, though the court could also choose to use teleconference or videoconference.
What does all this ultimately mean?
While COVID-19 has altered some of the regular work of the courts, they essentially remain open and fully functional, including for emergency matters. If you have a legal concern, you should retain an attorney and pursue your claim.
These are indeed difficult times, but you do have access to legal remedies. The Marks Law Firm has established remote meetings to continue to serve clients, and we encourage you to read our full COVID-19 page for details.
If you have additional questions about COVID-19 and access to the courts, contact us – we can help.