The pandemic has put a strain on everything — including many marriages. If you are wanting to get a divorce soon, you may be wondering about the status of the courts. The good news is, the courts are open and handling family law cases. However, it is not business as usual. So here are some key things to know about changes to Texas divorces during the pandemic.
Divorce Cases are Taking Longer
The first thing to know is that the pandemic has created a backlog in the courts. This means it could take longer before you can get a hearing before the court. The courts are trying to catch up, but criminal cases are getting first priority.
How much longer will it take? It’s hard to say. Your divorce lawyer can advise you on the approximate timeline for your case.
Your Divorce Hearing Probably Will Not Be Held In-person During the Pandemic
The pandemic has changed the way we do business. Everyone has implemented many new safety procedures, including retailers, schools, and restaurants.
The courts are no exception. The Texas Supreme Court has issued several administrative orders regarding COVID-19 safety precautions. Most non-essential court cases are not being held in-person.
This means your divorce case probably will be held online, using Zoom or another video service. Remote hearings can speed up the divorce process in Texas. Many couples find this approach more comfortable. It also may reduce your legal fees. This approach is safer for everyone involved.
In-person Divorce Cases are Requiring Safety Precautions
Can you still have your divorce case heard in-person during the pandemic? Yes. But be aware that if you insist on meeting in court, you probably will have to wait even longer to get a hearing.
In addition, the Texas Supreme Court’s emergency orders include guidance on in-person hearings. Masks and social distancing probably will be required.
You May Be Able to Speed Up the Divorce Process During the Pandemic
You may be wanting an “uncontested” divorce. This means both sides agree on the details of ending the marriage. In these cases, some Texas courts are not requiring hearings at all. The spouses will submit their documents for the court to review. Your divorce attorney can tell you if this is an option, or you can contact your county.
One more tip: If your separation is fairly amicable, you may be able to go through divorce mediation. This could speed up the process and perhaps save you some money. Your divorce lawyer can help you decide if this is a good option for you.
Existing Texas Divorce Court Orders are Still in Effect During the Pandemic
Even with the pandemic, existing court orders are still in effect. If you ignore rulings about child custody, alimony, and child support, you could be held liable.
For example, sometimes, an ex may refuse to make child support payments. The court can rule the ex is in contempt of the law. He or she could even face jail time.
At the same time, be aware that the pandemic has created a backlog in the criminal courts, too. Also, because jails are having a very difficult time coping with COVID-19, a judge may be reluctant to order jail time.
You Can Get a Texas Divorce Court Order Modified During the Pandemic
Of course, the courts recognize that the pandemic has impacted people greatly on a personal level. Many people are facing very real financial and personal hardship. People who are struggling financially due to the pandemic or for other reasons should know it is still possible to get a Texas divorce court order modified.
Court orders can still be modified for other reasons, too. For example, you may want to have more visitation rights. People who wish to modify a court order regarding custody, payments, or other issues, will need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.
New Texas Law Requires Proof of Divorce Claims to be Provided Quickly
One big way divorce in Texas has changed has nothing to do with the pandemic. When couples divorce, they must make “claims” as to why they want to end the marriage. They also must provide evidence to support the claim. Evidence includes tax returns, pay stubs, text messages, and emails.
Previously, divorce lawyers had a lot of time to secure this evidence. But a new law went into effect on January 1, 2021. The new law requires people to provide evidence for each of their claims very quickly after the divorce filing.
So if you are certain you want to get a divorce in Texas, it’s a good idea to start getting organized now. Gather up bank account statements and other important documents. If you plan to make a claim your spouse has committed adultery, try to gather evidence for that as well.
Of course, you probably have questions about what is considered acceptable “proof.” A skilled divorce lawyer can explain this to you and answer any other questions about this new law.
Questions About Getting a Texas Divorce During the Pandemic?
If you’re thinking about ending your marriage in 2021, we are here to help. Sabelhaus + Lynch is an award-winning family law firm with years of experience practicing family law. Stephanie and Sean can offer you a no-cost, 20-minute initial consultation. They can explain more about how the pandemic has changed the Texas divorce process and help you understand your options. Call us today at 817-668-5879.