We hope everyone is staying safe and, for those clients who are co-parenting and at-home learning, we admire you. Our office remains open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we continue to consult with clients via telephone and email. The San Diego Courts will remain closed until April 30, 2020, except for certain situations related to family law case emergencies. The Court continues to have one Family Law Judicial Officer at each branch (Vista, San Diego, El Cajon and South Bay) to review ex-parte requests for Emergency Orders, which has now been expanded from the prior policy of only hearing restraining orders and orders where a child’s safety is at risk. This expansion, however, is limited and the issue needs to be a true emergency. If you believe you have a true emergency, please contact me immediately.
I remain concerned about my clients who have lost their jobs or experienced income loss during this pandemic. If you have experienced such loss and need to (1) modify a current order, or (2) obtain a support order on an existing court case, please contact me immediately. As discussed in my notice last week, we do not yet have legislation allowing parties to modify their support orders retroactively to the date of the March 19, 2020, stay-at-home order. Thus, I am prepared to bring these motions on your behalf on an emergency basis. If this applies to you, please contact my office to discuss your case in detail.
This week, certain new Rules of Court were made concerning the COVID-19 pandemic that are applicable to our family law cases:
1. Judicial foreclosures as stayed (i.e., stopped) for 90 days after the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted by our State Governor.
2. Temporary Emergency Protective Orders from Criminal Court and Temporary Restraining Orders from Family Court that are set to expire during the state of emergency related to COVID-19 must be automatically extended for up to 90 days after the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted by our State Governor.
3. The Statute of Limitations for Civil Causes of Action are tolled from April 6, 2020, until for 90 days after the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted by our State Governor.
4. Depositions may be done electronically, and the deponent is no longer required to be present with the deposition officer (i.e., court reporter) at the time of the deposition.
Also, our Supervising Family Law Judge, Margo Lewis Hoy, has given us the following guidelines:
Q: Does the COVID-19 Pandemic and related orders of the Governor, to reduce the spread of the virus, cause a child custody and visitation order to be modified or altered?
A: All child custody and visitation orders from the court remain in full force and effect until and unless modified by the court.
Q: Since schools are closed for children, what schedule is in place?
A: Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, all schools in San Diego County and throughout the
State of California are closed for an extended period of time to reduce the spread of the virus. While the schools are physically closed to students, they are still enrolled full time and participating in distance learning to varying degrees. Parenting time and schedules shall continue as if the children were still physically attending school with same start and end times. School calendar for each district and/or school shall be referenced for the specific holidays or vacation schedule (spring break, summer vacation etc.)
Q: Since there is no school to attend Monday morning does that mean my weekend is extended by 24 hours?
A: Parenting schedules should continue in accordance with the school calendar, which shall be referenced for any specific holiday or extended weekend time granted in the court order.
Q: Is there make-up parenting time if it is missed due to COVID-19?
A: The existence COVID-19, in and of itself, is not a basis to modify parenting time. However, make-up time may be addressed by the judicial officer on a case by case basis once the court re-opens. Parties are encouraged to work together collaboratively in following the existing court ordered parenting plans.
Q: How will the court handle a parent that uses COVID-19 to withhold visitation or violate the court order?
A: Parents are encouraged to work together collaboratively to ensure that they are acting in the best interest of the minor children and sharing the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. The court may or could consider a parent’s wrongful use of the COVID-19 Pandemic to violate court orders in any future matter before the court regarding child custody and visitation. Parents are encouraged to be flexible in identifying and determining alternate exchange locations for the exchange of children in accordance with the court order in the event there are closures due to COVID-19 and the CDC guidelines in place.
Q: How do I get a copy of my court order if I do not have one?
A: The court is closed and there is no mechanism at this time to obtain a copy of a court order.
Q: What constitutes a family law emergency for ex parte appearance?
A: The determination of an emergency family law ex parte order will be done on a case by case basis. The court will hear emergency family law ex parte matters in accordance with the general orders of the presiding department. Everyone is encouraged to work together to resolve disputes and comply with existing orders of the court. Filing routine documents, entering stipulations or scheduling requests/changes are not emergency matters that will be heard during the closure. Please refer to Family Code Section 3064 for further guidance.
Q: If I receive notice from the opposing party for an emergency family law ex parte how can I provide the court with my response to the request?
A: A response to an emergency family law ex parte request can be filed with the court up to one hour prior to the scheduled ex parte hearing. Refer to the San Diego Superior Court website under Family Court Procedures During Emergency Conditions.
Q: Do I have to tell my co-parent or do they have to tell me, if they or someone in their household, is believed to have been exposed to COVID-19?
A: Parents are encouraged to communicate, unless otherwise restrained from communicating, regarding the health, safety and welfare of the minor children. Parents are to follow all legal custody orders in effect.
With best personal regards,
Heidi and Staff