Powers Law, P.C.

How Are Family Courts Operating In New York During The COVID Era?

During this COVID era, it’s a good idea to update everyone about what’s happening with the court system in regard to personal appearances and hearings. New York is currently implementing Phase 2 in which personal appearances are being heard when a judge consents with the parties to be present in court, which means that cases are being adjourned. Judges are trying to prioritize what is heard. Emergency applications are getting priority. Therefore, those are being heard first. Any application that can wait, will be scheduled for January and February. Some of those applications include trials. We are trying to get judges to hear orders of protection sooner than later. That way, we can figure out where our clients can go and who they can be around. Any modifications to an existing order are lower on the priority list for family court judges at this time. As long as there isn’t an emergency that needs to be addressed, the judges are putting off modifications for the time being.

Have There Been Requests For Modifications Due To The COVID Situation?

Due to COVID-19, there have been requests for modifications. In certain situations, when it becomes apparent to either the custodial or visitation parent that there is someone new in the former spouse or partner’s life, a request for a modification is usually petitioned. For example, if a client has custody of a child and is dating someone, the former partner might go to court to see if they can interrupt that relationship. They might feel that their child is too young or that there is inappropriate contact with the child. Many times, it is done out of spite. As a result, we would have to appear in court to address the issue.

Other times, however, it is not done out of spite. In those instances, we advise clients that they need to contact the proper authorities to conduct an investigation. In New York, if a parent is sending their child for visits and feel that they are being exposed to drugs, violence, or abuse, they need to go to the police and Child Protective Services (CPS).The parent needs to go to CPS and make a complaint. A complaint will often allow CPS to investigate each party, parent, and the living circumstances. Their goal is to act in the best interest of the child, their safety, and well-being. We always advise our clients that they need to be sure about making a claim on their former partner or spouse. There has to be some legitimacy to the claim. You never want to cry wolf, especially because you have children in common. The court and CPS take matters dealing with children very seriously. They always act according to the best interests of a child.

Can Someone Have Restrictions Imposed On The Custodial Parent During The Holiday Season For Any Reason?

Occasionally, there’s credence to impose restrictions on a custodial parent. However, most of the time, what we see are sour grapes. For instance, a spouse who is not traveling with the family this year, perhaps for the first time, may not want the other party to go to the vacation destination. For the first time, there is some credibility to traveling and the safety of children. The courts, however, are continually ruling that travel plans and the actual traveling are not reason enough to modify a custody or visitation agreement. There has to be more than just the perceived threat of contracting the virus. The court is going to give a lot of deference to a parent who is taking care of the child. They will give the parent the flexibility to act in the best interest of the child and keep them safe.

Many judges don’t want to get involved in the day-to-day decisions of parents. If a parent wants to take a child from Long Island to a place that might be open in Pennsylvania where there is a waterpark or ski resort that’s acting on CDC guidelines, an argument by a sour grapes spouse won’t hold any water. The parent who wants to take the child on vacation can often show that they are going to take precautions and act in a reasonable manner on their trip. As such, the court will not take that application.

For more information on New York Family Courts In The COVID Era, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (631) 667-7100 today.

John T. Powers, Esq.

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