Mediation and Family Law in the time of COVID-19
May 12, 2020
As you know if you are a regular reader of this blog, I am a big fan of Mediation generally. I favor Mediation in Family Law because it gives parties ownership and control over their destiny. I always believe that Mothers and Fathers, Husbands and Wives know more than a Judge about their own lives and what is best for their families. In the time of COVID-19, I am an even greater proponent of Mediation. Mediation now gives you the opportunity to have a ready forum to resolve your dispute. If you are waiting for a Judge to hear your case- dig in–you may be waiting for months or even a year. If you decide to mediate –you may get the resolution you need before we come out of quarantine.
Why Mediate Now?
I just got off one of the many Zoom calls about Family Law updates that I am on weekly, and the news I have to report is that in our courts family law matters are NOT likely to resume soon. While technically many Philadelphia area courts may be re-opening on June 1st, nothing will be business as usual. The backlog is enormous. All filings continue, but only emergencies are being heard. The four county area of Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia County, each are handling their re-openings differently, but the essential message from family court Judges and administrators is to expect disruption and delays for a long time into the future.
As we re-open in June, social distancing will be in place. There will be longer than the usual lines at security checkpoints as people are screened for temperature in addition to metal detection. To minimize the numbers of people in buildings, cases will be staggered , scheduled for specific times, and given time limits. Parties and their lawyers may be the only ones allowed in the courthouse. Well-wishers and other family members will be excluded. In some cases, witnesses also may be disallowed, or heard from remotely. In some counties, family matters will be held only on one or two specified days per week because of limited courtroom availability. Only larger courtrooms, suitable for distancing will be open. New matters will join a long queue of already filed and previously scheduled cases. Matters that were scheduled during the Judicial Emergency, will get new dates; however, the very earliest dates for re-scheduling will be late August 2020. In Philadelphia County the Family Court building has been totally closed, and staff have not entered the building since the shutdown. According to one source, there is a backlog of 24,000 support cases alone!
If you are tired of waiting, if you want to finalize your divorce and move on with your life, if you need child support or spousal support, or alimony, or if you want to re-negotiate your custody agreement, now is the time to consider private mediation and/or arbitration. If you hire a mediator or arbitrator, you can get your case out of the court system. You and your spouse can agree to terms that include either a binding or a non-binding resolution. This means you can try this alternate route, and stick with the resolution, or agree that if you don’t like the result, you retain the option to go to court. Your current lawyers can help with this. You can craft how this works because you now are in charge. Using a neutral private party – who is a trained mediator and/or arbitrator to help you craft a resolution to your custody or support or divorce matter may be the best thing to do right now.
At Bookspan Family Law one of the areas of practice that I enjoy the most is Mediation because as a Mediator I know that I help people achieve positive resolutions. Call our firm, Bookspan Family Law, LLC to discuss mediation with a certified divorce mediator Your positive option in the time of coronavirus.