Since March 2020, when the Governor issued the Stay Home, Stay Safe Order, you’ve probably noticed the widespread effect that order has had on everyday life. Even though things are slowly but surely opening up again, you may not realize how something like a global health crisis can affect your legal matter. Even in the face of these challenges, our talented team of experienced family law attorneys haven’t skipped a beat on our family law cases.
The stress of staying home, missing work, homeschooling, struggling with child care, etc. has been taking a toll on people everywhere and, unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in domestic violence, as well as an increase in the number of PPO filings, divorces, and breakdown in many co-parenting relationships.
We’ve learned a lot about practicing family law in Michigan during a pandemic over the past few months. We've compiled our top findings regarding how COVID-19 may affect your family law matter from our work in five different counties and listed them below:
Divorces Take Longer to Finalize as a Result of COVID-19
1. Typically, a divorce case in Michigan is assigned a case age of 1 year. This means that from the date of filing, your divorce case needs to be finalized in less than one year. Due to COVID, and the complications that arise in carrying out the necessary steps to reach a conclusion in divorce cases, the Michigan Supreme Court has eliminated the case age rule for the foreseeable future. As a result, scheduling order dates are being pushed out well into the future, and cases are taking much longer to move along the typical timing track.
The Use of Video-Conferencing Technology has Negatively Affected the Efficiency of Court Proceedings in Michigan
2. Most courts are utilizing Zoom technology and holding exclusively virtual hearings. For many types of court hearings in a family law matter, this works just fine. However, for complicated motion hearings, evidentiary hearings, or trials this proves to be incredibly difficult and often takes longer than it would ordinarily take in person.
It May Now Take Weeks to Get a Hearing in Michigan Courts Due to COVID-19
3. In an unprecedented move, Michigan courts were shut down for several weeks at the beginning of the Stay Home, Stay Safe order. The Michigan Supreme Court issued an administrative order that called for emergency essential staff only and precluded Judges from working on certain types of matters. This created a serious backlog of filings to be processed. Most courts have done an impressive job catching up with everything. However, it is making the time for motions to be heard longer than usual. Pre-COVID, if you filed a motion you could typically get a hearing in 7-10 days. Now, it can take up to 45 days, or even longer, depending on what County you’re in and what relief you’re asking the court to provide.
Judges Have the Flexibility to Set Their Own COVID-19 Protocol
4. Each Judge has their own COVID protocol, and some Judges are more flexible than others. For example, some Judges are choosing to decline to schedule emergency hearings unless one of the parties, or one of the minor children, is in an immediate threat of physical danger. Other Judges are allowing select issues to be heard on an emergency basis. Each County has a set day for what lawyers refer to as “Motion Day,” a set day of the week that motions will be heard. Some Judges are now accommodating parties by allowing some motions to be heard on a day other than of motion day.
Contact Top Michigan Family Law Attorneys to Ensure Your Rights Are Represented
But don’t worry! No matter what situation you’re in, now is still a good time to move forward with your family law action. Whether you’re thinking about getting a divorce, in the middle of a divorce, or having trouble with co-parenting, the Courts are open and are handling matters as prudently and expeditiously as possible. Contact our experienced family law attorneys if you need any assistance or have any questions on how we can help you with your current legal situation.