Coronavirus Update - Helpful Information for Our Clients
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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.