The United States is just beginning to realize the social disruptions stemming from COVID-19 and the unprecedented responses to combat this deadly virus. The State of New York has been especially hard-hit, leading to many business and government offices being completely closed or working severely curtailed schedules. Williamson, Clune & Stevens, divorce lawyers in Ithaca, Elmira, Binghamton and Syracuse, is still serving clients, using technology and other means that allow us to observe social distancing practices that keep our staff and clients safe.
Family courts of any state are typically the busiest courts even in normal times. With the recent shutdowns due to COVID-19, the NY family court system has been closed to all new cases, except for emergency filings dealing with abuse and safety. This means that family courts across New York State will likely see a rise in custody cases in the aftermath of COVID-19.
Child Custody and ‘Stay-at-Home’ Orders
The “New York State on Pause” executive order signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 20, 2020, and now continuing through at least May 15, posed a significant dilemma for parents who have joint custody arrangements of their children. What is allowed, what is safe, and what is in the best interests of my child? These questions may contradict orders from the court for shared custody and visitation arrangements between parents.
Moreover, any filings for adjustments to these arrangements cannot be reviewed by the courts at this time, due to closures and modified scheduling. Parents are left to make these decisions as best as they can; but what happens when staying home and being safe violates the shared custody arrangements set up by the family court? And what if disputes arise over the current arrangements?
Inevitably, these issues will not be resolved in many families, and will lead to a huge number of custody dispute filings when NY family courts reopen for normal business. Williamson, Clune & Stevens, divorce lawyers in Ithaca, Elmira, Binghamton and Syracuse, can provide guidance and counsel during these stressful times to help your family make the best possible choices.
Child Support Modifications and COVID-19
Another potential trouble area for the family courts of New York is the issue of child support. Stemming from choices about the ‘stay-at-home’ order mentioned above, some parents will bear most of the costs of caring for children during this time. This is especially true with schools being dismissed, and if parents deem it best for the child or children to stay exclusively with one parent.
Child support payments are delicately balanced on several factors that pertain to both parents and the number of children involved. When this often-precarious balance is disrupted, as with COVID-19 safety and social distancing efforts, parents will likely be filing for changes in support arrangements. The Family Law attorneys at Williamson, Clune & Stevens, a law firm serving Ithaca, Syracuse, Auburn and Binghamton, can offer advice and support in making these decisions and preparing filings for when the courts reopen.
Until such time as the family courts across New York State reopen, families are left to deal with these issues without the guidance of the courts. However, Williamson, Clune & Stevens Family Law attorneys are available to provide much-needed advice, counsel and mediation to help families make the best possible decisions during this time.
Call us at 607-273-3339 or send a message online to arrange for a confidential consultation. Existing clients and new clients can contact us during these difficult times for legal advice and assistance. We stand ready to help New York families in Ithaca, Elmira, Binghamton, Syracuse and the surrounding areas with family law matters, even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.