The court shutdown in New York was as essential as it was unprecedented. The urgent need to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19 took vital precedence over procedural, legalistic concerns. But now, with the state slowly reopening, the legal community must confront the complications that have arisen from the shutdown. Clients want answers, and it will be up to judges and lawyers together to rebuild and re-center a system that has been sharply disrupted.
I am a family law litigator. In family law, real-world events external to litigation can have massive effects on our cases, which are, at base, reflections on the personal lives of litigants. An economic shock means financial changes; school closures mean custody issues. Procedural dates, too, are important in divorces—in many ways, dates determine how property is going to be distributed between spouses, and these dates and deadlines have been greatly disrupted. As family law attorneys review their cases and consider what comes next, here are the four questions I believe courts, lawyers, and perhaps legislators will need to answer in the months to come.
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