As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise and schools, workplaces and public gathering spaces across the United States remain closed, the coronavirus outbreak is having profound impacts on the personal lives of Americans in a variety of ways. Nearly nine-in-ten U.S. adults say their life has changed at least a little as a result of the COVID-19.
In our legal system, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an Order Declaring a Judicial Emergency which is now in place until April 27, 2020. Pursuant to that Order, the Courts in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with limited exceptions, are suspended, and all corresponding deadlines are tolled and extended. During this period, the Courts remain available for emergency matters such as protective orders and those necessary to protect the health and safety of the public.
Despite the recent pandemic, Roop Xanttopoulos Babounakis PLLC remains willing and able to assist all future and present clients.
In order to effectively assist you during this difficult time, we have the ability to meet with clients via Zoom, Uber Conference and Web-x. We can also meet with clients for emergency matters immediately and continue to be available via telephone conference.
Our instructions for Zoom Video Conferencing is here.
Our instructions for UberConference is here.
all of these different situations based upon your individual needs.
Do I need to wait until the pandemic is over to pursue divorce or custody, spousal support, child support modifications?
No, we are able to work with you immediately. The process of going through a divorce can be emotional and time consuming. Waiting for weeks or months to start this process can take an additional toll on your family and your individual personal well-being.
Further, for child and spousal support cases, it is critical that you speak with an attorney immediately if you believe that a modification of spousal or child support is necessary. The Court is only permitted to retroactively modify support backwards to the date a pleading is filed with the Court and needs to be served timely.
How can I effectively work with my attorney during the pandemic and stay-away order? If we are unable to meet with you in person, how can we help you?
We are still available via telephone conference and we can now do consultations via video which will permit us to meet face-to-face and exchange documents. We can also arrange for a secure transfer of documents to help better and accurately assess your individual situation.
Our instructions for Zoom Video Conferencing is here.
Our instructions for UberConference is here.
While the Court’s are under an Emergency Order from the Supreme Court of Virginia, they remain open to process divorce cases and handle any emergency situations such as protective orders. In the event we are able to resolve your differences via settlement, we can still finalize your Final Order of Divorce and/or get Consent Orders entered.
How can I work through issues with my spouse/ex-spouse/co-parent if the court’s are only open for limited purposes?
Many law firms are still open and our firm is actively engaged with other lawyers (and pro-se parties) via settlement conferences, mediation, collaborative divorce, and traditional settlement negotiations in order to facilitate separation, divorce, equitable distribution of assets, support and resolve custody issues. During this time, we have the ability to work with the opposing party or their attorney to achieve results for you and your family.
Pursuant to Executive Order 55, Governor Northam has Ordered that all individuals are to stay at their place of residence until June 10, 2020. However, several exceptions to this Order exist, including (d) Traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation, or child care. Therefore, you are legally permitted to leave your home to facilitate a transfer of your child(ren) to their co-parent.
Who will make medical and financial decisions for me if I get sick, or worse what happens if I die from covid19?
Having an Advanced Medical Directive, or Living Will can assist medical professionals and loved ones from understanding your wishes and make decisions should a health related incident arise or in the case of a disability.
Further, having a power of attorney will permit trusted individuals or family members from making important financial decisions should you be unable to do so due to unforeseen circumstances such as becoming ill or disabled.
Finally, you should have a Last Will and Testament or Trust instrument in place in order to ensure that your assets end up in the hands of those you wish to benefit and not based upon default rules that do not reflect your desires.
We can assist in preparing a limited or comprehensive estate plan that addresses.
During the COVID-19 crisis, you are still obligated to adhere to all court orders. The language in the custody or visitation order should be followed and the exchange of the children should take place in accordance with court orders. The language in in orders regarding support should be followed as well. However, you may make changes only if both parties agree in writing to a modification of requirements of an order.
The terms of your court order remain in effect during the coronavirus crisis. If you are court ordered to pay spousal support or child support, you remain obligated to pay the amounts ordered. It is not advisable to stop making court-ordered payments. In order to change the amount of child support or spousal support paid to the other party, a petition to modify child support or motion to modify spousal support must be filed with the court. The amount owed to the other party will not be officially changed until a new order is signed by the Judge. The advantage however of filing as soon as possible, is that any decision in your favor by the Court may be retroactive to the date of filing.
If you have been furloughed, lost your job, or your business has been classified as “non-essential” and forced to shut down, you may have a large reduction in income. If you are unable to pay your court ordered obligations, remember that you have options to get court relief.
Although the courts may not hear the motion for some time due to closures, the advantage of filing as soon as possible is the court’s ability to reduce the spousal support or child support retroactively.
So, what exactly does this mean? If you file for modification of spousal support or child support on April 1, 2020 for example, but do not have the opportunity to have a hearing until May 1, 2020, if the court rules in your favor they can have the reduction take effect from the date of filing of your motion (April 1, 2020). So do not wait! The court does not have the ability to reduce your obligations prior to the date of filing.
Same as above. The sooner you file, the more beneficial it is for you. Although there may be a delay in getting a hearing before a Judge, when the courts do begin hearing cases, any decision in your favor increasing support, can be retroactive to the date of filing. It is in your best interest to file or petition the court for modification of child support as soon as reasonably possible.
My co-parent (opposing party) is not following the social distancing requirements or is not staying home? Can I withhold access to protect my child? What are my options?
During the COVID-19 crisis, you are still obligated to continue to exchange the children in accordance with your court order. If you have a court order determining visitation or custody, and you withhold access on a day your ex or co-parent is supposed to have custody or visitation, your ex or co-parent can file against you for violating the court order. A Rule to Show Cause can be filed against you if you are in willful violation of a court order. If you are planning on withholding access to protect your child, you should consider filing a modification of child custody before taking any action. If you feel that there is a material change of circumstances that has occurred since the entry of the last custody order (such as a co-parent not following CDC guidelines during pandemic), you can file to modify child custody. Although this does not completely protect you at a Rule to Show Cause hearing, it can help explain your argument in front of a Judge.
You should communicate your concerns to your co-parent and document any dialogue via text or email. If the co-parent continues to put your child at risk and you believe there is a material change of circumstances warranting a change in custody, you may consider filing for modification of child custody.
Child care during actual working hours is a statutory add-on to child support under Virginia Code §20-108.2(F), (1950, as amended). You can apply to the court for a modification of child support due to the material change of circumstances for the additional cost of child care.
If you believe you have a case for modification of child support to provide for reimbursement of work related child care costs, you should consider filing as soon as possible. Although there may be a delay in getting a hearing before a Judge, when the Courts do begin hearing cases, any decision in your favor may be retroactive to the date of filing. It is in your best interest to file or petition the court for modification of child support as soon as reasonably possible and to keep detailed records and receipts regarding all child care expenses you incur.
Many courts are cancelling or resetting cases as a result of COVID-19. We recommend that you call the court or your attorney before any scheduled hearings or trials and ask whether the case will be heard as scheduled.
My child’s Spring Break was extended for my child’s school district. How will this affect visitation?
The language in the custody or visitation order should be followed and the exchange of the children should take place in accordance with the regular, published school calendar for your child’s school district. During the COVID-19 crisis, you are still obligated to continue to exchange the children in accordance with your court order.
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