During the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak our law office will remain open virtually and we are available by telephone, email or videoconference to all existing and new clients. We will be as immediately responsive as possible.
The last few months have been stressful and difficult for all of us as the reality of the pandemic continues to relentlessly confront us. As parents we should stay calm, be informed, and maintain as much consistency for our children as we can under these new, albeit temporary, circumstances. We are all members of a broader community of Washingtonians. Let’s keep that in mind, and let’s work together to respect and protect each other during this health crisis.
What is Stay Home, Stay Healthy ?
On February 29, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation entitled “Stay Home, Stay Healthy.” The intent of the proclamation (which is currently in effect until May 4 and may be extended further) is to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus by limiting personal physical contact, restricting gatherings of people, and limiting businesses to “essential “ functions. Every person in Washington State should follow the Governor’s recommendations to the extent that they can. We encourage everyone to review the proclamation as well as all updated guidance from the Governor’s office. https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/Guidance%20Bulletin%20-%20Proclamation%2020-25%2C%2003.31.2020.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
What does this proclamation mean, practically?
- Limit exposure to other people as much as you can
- Travel and transportation should be restricted to essential functions such as grocery shopping, medical appointments, and trips to pharmacies
- If your work is deemed essential, stay informed as to what precautions you should take from a health standpoint
- In addition to compliance with the proclamation, we encourage everyone who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 to consult their healthcare provider by phone
How does this affect my parenting plan?
Parenting plans continue to be legally binding orders. If you have concerns about your current parenting plan posing a risk to your child, yourself and/or your family in the face of this pandemic, please seek legal advice. If both parents have concerns about the spread of the virus they both can agree to changes in the plan temporarily in consultation with an attorney. Now more than ever is a time when you as parents should, if at all possible, come to agreements with a view to the safety and health of all.
Are the courts operating at this time ?
The courts in Washington State are working diligently to continue functioning through the coronavirus pandemic in a safe and efficient manner, with a view to respecting the Governor’s proclamations. The Washington State Supreme Court has issued orders outlining guidelines for county courts, and different counties have different guidelines and rules as to how they will operate at this time. King County Superior Court, the court in which King County family law matters are heard, has issued the following directives related to family law matters:
Dated 27 March 2020
FAMILY LAW DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS WE ARE ONLY HEARING EMERGENCY MATTERS DEFINED AS FOLLOWS:
- Domestic Violence Protection Order hearings
- Motions for temporary restraining orders where personal safety is at risk
- Motions for temporary orders or adequate cause where child safety is at risk or there is a risk of child abduction
- Motions for temporary orders, child support adjustment, or child support trials by affidavit where a person’s basic financial survival is at issue (i.e., ability to maintain housing, basic necessities, and critical health care) or post-secondary (college) support is at issue and there are deadlines that cannot be moved
- Return on Warrant hearings
- Writs of Habeas Corpus and returns where there is a risk of abduction or an imminent risk of harm to the child
- Weapons Surrender Compliance Calendar
- Emergency motions on parenting issues where the health or safety of a child or adult is at risk due to COVID-19 All hearings are being conducted telephonically. Please see family law web pages for additional information: https://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/superior-court/family.aspx.
The Local Family Law Rules continue to apply regarding how and where to set hearings. AGREED ORDERS Agreed orders may be submitted to the Ex Parte Department through Ex Parte Via the Clerk (EPVC), as otherwise permitted by Ex Parte Department policies, or as directed by your assigned judge. AGREED DIVORCE FINALIZATION Contact the Family Law Facilitator’s office for instructions and documentation needed to have your divorce finalized.
- For Kent Cases call: 206-477-2781
- For Seattle cases call: 206-477-2553
ASSISTANCE FOR SELF-REPRESENTED PARTIES AND FAMILY LAW SERVICES Many services for self-represented parties, including mediation, parenting evaluations, assistance from the Family Law Facilitators, are being conducted by telephone and e-mail. See Family Law web pages for more information.https://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/superior-court/family.aspx. WE ARE NOT HEARING ANY NON-EMERGENCY MATTERS. Specifically, the following are not being heard:
- Trials unless the trial court finds that an exception should be made based on the emergency criteria
- Status/Non-Compliance hearings (These are being conducted by paper review)
- Pretrial Conferences
- Discovery motions
- Default motion
- Any other non-emergency motions, whether they are set in family law motions or set before the assigned judge, including non-emergency motions for revision These procedures are in effect until April 24, 2020, but may be extended.
I have an ongoing case, does it have to come to a standstill?
Not necessarily. If there’s a conflict in your family law case which does not fall under the court’s definition of “Mission Critical” matters, the King County Superior Court will still allow the entry of agreed orders remotely. If you and the opposing party in your case are able to reach an agreement outside of court, a family law attorney can enter Temporary and/or Final Orders through the court’s new guidelines. For information on this process for self-represented clients, read more here: https://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/superior-court/family/facilitator.aspx
A qualified family law attorney can help you pursue a settlement while restrictions remain in place, either through the exchange of settlement offers or the scheduling of mediation with a third party. Many dispute resolution mediators are opening up opportunities for remote mediation, allowing parties to work through conflicts without exposing themselves or their families to the risk of infection.
If you have any questions about how the above King County Superior Court directive applies to your case, and you don’t already have an attorney representing you, please contact us.
Lives depend on social distancing! Please take this health crisis seriously. Be smart, safe and healthy!
This article provided by the Anjilvel Law Group is not a substitute for legal advice and provides information specific to King County, Washington.