Coronavirus Family Law FAQ

The Corona Virus has had a significant impact on everyday life in America. One area that has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 is the judicial system. On April 2, 2020, Chief Justice Beasley of the North Carolina Supreme Court issued an order suspending most court proceedings across the state until at least June 1, 2020. Below are several common questions that have come up as a result of COVID-19 court closures.

I have a court date during the closure - what do I do?

While most court hearings have been suspended during the Corona crisis, several categories of cases are still being heard during this period. For example, hearings that are required to protect a party's Due Process rights are still being held. The most notable type of hearing in this category is a bond hearing. In North Carolina, when someone is arrested for a felony or a misdemeanor, they must be taken before a judge or magistrate within 48 hours to determine their bond.

Courts are also continuing to hold hearings in domestic violence cases. For example, when a plaintiff obtains an ex-parte domestic violence order (50B), the defendant has the right to have a hearing on the merits of the order within 10 days.

Further, Chief Justice Beasley's order allows Judges in each county to determine what other hearings will move forward during this period. If you are unsure if your court date has been canceled, it is important to check with the clerk's office in the county where your case is. If your court hearing is not cancelled, and you do not show up to court, you could be subject to penalties or even have an arrest warrant issued. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, we make it a priority to keep our clients informed on the status of their case.

If my job is non-essential, do I still have to pay child support?

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the income of millions of Americans. During this crisis, many people are wondering if they must continue to pay their child support obligation. While this is a complex issue, the short answer is - yes, you must continue to pay child support. Even during COVID-19, parties must continue to follow court Orders. However, this is a complex issue. The primary enforcement mechanism for failure to pay child support is civil contempt. The party bringing a civil contempt motion must be able to prove that the non-paying spouse had the ability to pay their child support obligation, and simply chose not to. If you have questions regarding the impact of COVID-19 on your Child Support Order, call Arnold & Smith, PLLC today.

Do I still have to follow my custody schedule during COVID-19?

While non-essential travel within North Carolina is limited, many people have asked if they have to follow their custody schedule. The answer is, yes. The North Carolina Stay at Home Order specifically allows for travel pursuant to a Custody order to continue. Further, the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court's Family Court Advisory commission issues an advisory stating that "parties should continue to follow their parenting plan or custody order as written while such orders are in effect, unless otherwise directed by the Governor or other executive or judicial order."The advisory also asks parents to work together during this crisis to ensure the health and safety of their children. Parties who refuse to follow their Custody Order could be subject to contempt proceedings. If you have questions about your custody schedule during the COVID-19 crisis, contact an experienced family law attorney at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today.

Domestic violence and COVID-19

As discussed above, courts in North Carolina are continuing to hold hearings on domestic violence. With a substantial number of couples subject to North Carolina's Stay at Home Order, there could be a significant increase in domestic violence during this period. The restrictions put in place because of COVID-19 have not changed the rights of domestic violence victims. You can still seek a restraining order against someone who commits domestic violence against you. Further, the police are still responding to calls of domestic violence.

The issues discussed above are just the tip of the iceberg as it relates to legal questions during COVID-19. If you have questions about your rights in a domestic, criminal, personal injury, land-lord tenant, or civil case during COVID-19, contact an experienced trial lawyer at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.