The pandemic continues to affect the city’s family courts, but there are ways the system can adjust


When the COVID 19 crises rippled throughout the city, the New York court system was caught completely o guard and forced to shut down in an unprecedented way, affecting numerous types of litigation, from contracts to class actions. For many people with active cases, this was not a major life altering event, but for those going through divorce, the shutdown threw an already chaotic time in their lives into total disarray.

When the courts first closed, all cases divorce included were adjourned “sine die,” meaning they were given no designated resumption date. But there was a bright spot; the court system was able to convert all case filings from paper to digital. And with the move to virtual courtrooms, the Supreme Court system was able to accommodate court appearances and trials. With this new forum, many divorcing couples were able to resolve their differences.

Unfortunately, the Family Courts have been slow to follow suit. The logistics in the Family Court system, unlike the Supreme Court, did not easily allow for the conversion to digital filing and virtual courtrooms.

While judges and referees have done incredible work in conferencing and resolving cases through digital means, it was not until mid-January that the first new, non-emergency petitions for custody, visitation, or child support were processed. These petitions will allow new cases to move forward with virtual appearances.

This nine month shutdown has created an enormous backlog of cases, thus the need to “act outside the box” is vital. One such possibility is to follow the lead of other states such as Nevada, which have created an online mediation project that allows cases to be resolved in days, as opposed to weeks or months. Another option is to mirror the protocol of the Supreme Court, where automatic orders go into effect at the start of a matrimonial action. is would mean that once a Family Court action is instituted, certain provisions would be imposed on the litigants, streamlining the process and providing a degree of uniformity. If a reader is involved in a family law matter, it’s important to speak with an attorney that has embraced the technical advances in litigation during these difficult times.


Angiuli & Gentile, LLP, Attorneys at Law
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