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Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we've seen schools, businesses, and churches shutting down, but starting Monday, March 16th, it will also be impacting the North Carolina court system. With few exceptions, court cases scheduled in either District or Superior Court will be suspended for a minimum of 30 days. Our team of divorce attorneys are here to break down what these developments mean for your case and how we can support and assist you during this time.
Understanding the Judicial Branch Response
Due to the public health concerns related to the coronavirus, Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in an attempt to reduce the spread of this illness. In accordance with this and with the authority granted under North Carolina General Statute 7A-39B, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has ordered that all cases, with few exceptions, scheduled for both the North Carolina District Courts and Superior Courts are to be postponed for a minimum of 30 days.
This doesn't mean the courts are closing. This directive does not apply to any legal proceeding in which a jury or grand jury has already been selected and put in place. By postponing the majority of cases, they are trying to minimize the amount of traffic in and out of the courthouses each day to reduce the spread of illness.
Court Proceedings Not Impacted
In order to maintain due process and protect victims, there are some exceptions to these postponements.
- The proceeding can be conducted remotely. Many court actions, such as depositions, can be conducted via video conferencing. If the sitting judge allows this, it can allow a case to move forward with minimal impact.
- Due process would be negated or minimized without the proceeding. This is related to criminal cases, specifically the accused party's first appearance, bond hearing, probation hearing, or similar situations.
- The proceeding is necessary to protect a victim or secure emergency relief. These include domestic violence protection orders, restraining orders, or emergency matters related to child custody.
- The Chief Business Court, Chief District Court, or Senior Resident Superior Court judges determine that the case can safely be conducted.
As stated above, any case in which a jury has been empaneled is able to move forward, unless the court determines accommodations are needed to protect plaintiffs and defendants, as well as witnesses, attorneys, and court employees.
How Our Family Law Attorneys Can Assist You
If you are a current client of The Doyle Law Group or you would like to take action on a separation, divorce, or custody case, and are concerned how this directive from the courts will affect you, we are here to assist you.
For Our Current Clients
We will be assisting all of our clients to adjust your cases as necessary, and will work with you to take as much action as possible to move forward while still being safe. We can also work with you to create a separation agreement or begin valuing assets or property. Additionally, anything our family law attorneys can do through teleconference, as allowed in the directive, will help minimize the impact and the delay you may be facing in your case.
For Our Future Clients
If you're considering a divorce, separation, or other legal action, it's important to not delay until the court system is "back to normal." While there will be a lengthy backlog of cases due to an extended postponement, there are several steps we can take in the interim to be prepared for your legal proceedings. In some cases, such as with a collaborative divorce or simple divorce, we may not even need to set a court date. To know the best course of action, it's important to go ahead and consult with an attorney and get everything in order as soon as possible.
Emergency Legal Proceedings
It's important to note that if you need emergency intervention from the courts, such as a restraining order or an update in custody arrangements, they will schedule those cases. If you feel you or your children are in an unsafe situation or you have urgent concerns related to a custody arrangement, we need to take immediate action to ensure the wellbeing of you and your loved ones.
Contact Our Attorneys Today
At The Doyle Law Group, we're staying on top of developments and will share them with you as soon as possible. We know how overwhelming and worrying the current situation is, but we are here to support you in all the matters related to family law. If you need to speak with us about your current case, or you are ready to schedule your first consultation, reach out to us today at 919-230-2094 or complete our contact form to get started.