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- Kimberly Arn

COVID-19 Family Law Update

Posted in Blog,Child Support,Family Law on April 14, 2020

Mask with the words COVID-19 Family Law Updates

Introduction:

These are unprecedented times, bringing uncertainty to much of the world. Information and connection assist to ease the uncertainty we are all facing. ARN Family Law would like to reach out to you and provide information to help guide you through this challenging time.

The Maryland Judiciary has issued an Administrative Order closing the courts to the public, with a few exceptions, through May 1, 2020. This means that all family law matters, barring genuine emergencies and protective order proceedings, scheduled through May 1, 2020 will be postponed. However, the Courts are still accepting filings, so it is important for you to know that you may still file your family law case. You can expect that when the Maryland Courts open back up to the public, there will be a significant backlog of cases. This means that the sooner you file your case, the sooner you will “get in line” to have your first court date scheduled when the Courts reopen. Perhaps now, more than ever, it is imperative not to unnecessarily delay your filing.

Governor Hogan’s June 4th Stay at Home Order

On March 30th, Governor Hogan issued a Stay at Home Order, which, in pertinent part, requires all but essential workers to stay home, or face a $5,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail. Many Maryland businesses deemed non-essential have closed and unfortunately many Marylanders have lost their jobs or have had their income substantially reduced. This has raised questions regarding custody and child support for many people. Please see the ARN Family Law blog posts on the issues of child custody and child support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maryland Judiciary Speaks to Custody

The Maryland Judiciary has issued a Statement on Matters Concerning Children and Families. Additionally, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts has issued “Seven Guidelines for Parents Who are Divorced/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the COVID19 Pandemic.”. It is important for you to know that the instructions are clear: If parents cannot reach an agreement on how to share custody of their child(ren) during the COVID-19 pandemic, if there is an existing court custody order, then that order MUST be followed. Similarly, if there is a child support order in place, that too must be followed. Importantly, Governor Hogan’s Stay at Home Order expressly allows for the transportation of children for the purpose of following an existing custody order. Make sure to have your custody order with you in your vehicle when transporting your child(ren) to and from the other parent’s home.

Problem-Solving Custody and Child Support Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic

There are many people that are separated but do not have existing custody or child support orders in place. How do these individuals resolve custody and/or child support disputes with the other parent? There is always the option of filing for custody and/or child support as the courts remain open and accepting of family law filings. Also see our blog links on this issue (above). In the meantime, however, it is usually best for families to try to reach a resolution outside of court. This could mean communicating directly with the other parent to reach an agreement. Or, hiring attorneys and attending mediation with your attorney and a trained mediator via Zoom or another web platform. You could also choose to engage in settlement discussions with the other parent through your attorneys. As always, it is always best practice to speak to an attorney before signing any agreement and/or filing any matter. There ARE options out there, and it is best to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through your options and keep you fully informed.

Remote Notarizations

On March 30, 2020, Governor Hogan issued an Executive Order temporarily waiving the requirement in Maryland for in-person notarization of documents, which would include any agreements you reach regarding any family law matter. The Executive Order sets forth many specific requirements for remote notarizations, so it is important to use a reputable remote notary who is adhering to all of the legal requirements set forth in the Governor’s Executive Order and the Secretary of State’s additional guidance. ARN Family Law is well-versed in these requirements to ensure a notary you may choose is following the new requirements, including utilizing a proper vendor.