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FAQ: Family Law Matters, COVID-19, and Court Closures

Posted by Peter D. Haroldson | Mar 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

Torres & Haroldson, PLLC attorneys are closely monitoring court operations in the counties in which we serve clients.  This is especially important as the courts implement new emergency rules and procedures on an almost daily basis to address operations during COVID-19.  Here are some quick questions and answers on pertinent issues and court proceedings in King County during Stay Home, Stay Healthy.*

Torres & Haroldson, PLLC continues to remain open for consultations with new and existing clients remotely via phone or video conference.

Question:  Is the King County Superior Court still open?

Answer:  Yes, but regular operations are very much scaled back, and the court is largely hearing only emergency matters.  In person appearances are discouraged or prohibited, and almost all civil trials are postponed.

Question:  Can I still file for divorce?

Answer:  Yes, the courts are still open to accept new filings.

Question:  I am the victim of abuse.  Can I still get a protection order?

Answer:  Absolutely.  If your safety is at risk, always call 911.  The court is still open for protection orders, including Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO), Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders (VAPO), and other protection orders.

Question:  Must I follow my court-ordered parenting plan during this time?

Answer:  This is perhaps the question of the moment.  No authoritative source has given a “yes” or “no” answer.  Every situation is different.  Governor Jay Inslee has indicated that nothing in his “Stay Home Stay Healthy” order “is intended to prevent compliance with a private parenting plan.”  The Governor's office further “encourages parents who are co-parenting under a parenting plan to communicate with one another during this difficult time in order to both maintain family relationships and to protect the best interests and health of each child.”

Question:  Can you share some advice for parents sharing custody during this time?

Answer:  Yes.  In simple terms: “Do unto others as you would like them to do to you” and “Be Nice.” The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers have offered suggestions for how to approach parenting plans in this very difficult and unprecedented time.  Click on this link to review the Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Divorced/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the COVID19 Pandemic.

Question:  Can I temporarily modify my parenting plan due to COVID-19?

Answer:  The King County Superior Court has just announced an emergency proceeding for parents to file an emergency motion for temporary modification to a parenting plan due to COVID-19.  The court will only hear emergency matters where the health and safety of a child or adult is at risk due to COVID-19. While it is not part of the official rule, the court has informed family law attorneys that this process should be used sparingly and only when there is a serious health risk involved.

* Usual lawyer disclaimers: This information is for general educational purposes only.  None of the following answers are a substitute for specific legal advice about your situation.  You may still “get in trouble” for doing or not doing something.  You should discuss your specific facts with your attorney prior to taking any legal action.  To discuss your specific family law issues, call us at 425.458.3170 to schedule your free consultation.

About the Author

Peter D. Haroldson

Peter's practice focuses on representing individuals in the areas of family law, guardianship, probate, estate planning, and general litigation.  Peter has represented clients all over the Puget Sound, including Pierce, King, Thurston, Kitsap, Snohomish, and Skagit Counties. Peter has represente...

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