This blog focuses on important issues for clients dealing with divorce, child custody, spousal support, and child support in Massachusetts, during the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 (“COVID-19”). Below you will find guidance to questions you may face during this difficult time.
WILL THE MASSACHUSETTS PROBATE COURTS SHUT DOWN DUE TO COVID-19?
The Massachusetts courts issued a standing order that until April 6th (at least) the Courts are open for in-person proceedings only to address emergency matters that cannot be resolved by video/phone. This standing order may change as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. Trials and hearings scheduled during this time will likely be moved to dates in the future, once the COVID-19 pandemic is deemed to be under control. Divorce, child custody, and other actions will remain active, and will not be dismissed simply due to the pandemic. Again, in some circumstances, the courts will hear cases through remote connections such as video and telephone, but this is subject to change. If you have an upcoming hearing and are represented by Mavrides Law, we will reach out with details and next steps.
CAN I JUST KEEP THE KIDS WITH ME DURING THE COVID-19 STATE OF EMERGENCY?
The answer to this question depends on your specific situation and any court orders in place. Existing orders do not automatically change during a state of emergency. It is important to pay particular attention to the wording of any court orders. Most contain language that states exactly when one parent has the children and when the other parent has the children. The language will often specify what happens when school is closed. These court orders should serve as your baseline guide for all questions during this time. If you do not understand the language, are confused, or think the wording is vague, you should contact your attorney for clarification.
I DO NOT WANT MY KIDS TO TRAVEL ANYWHERE DURING THE PANDEMIC. HOW DO I PREVENT MY CO-PARENT FROM TAKING THEM ON A TRIP?
Existing court orders should contain specific provisions regarding travel with children. Most court orders will not contain provisions regarding disease outbreaks or times of emergency. If your co-parent seeks to take your children to a COVID-19 hotspot or out of the country, judicial intervention could prove necessary. Due to the rapidly evolving dangers of traveling during this time, you should contact an attorney to determine if an emergency filing to restrict the children’s movement by the other parent is necessary to prevent any potential harm.
CAN I TAKE MY CHILDREN TO ANY HOSPITAL OR DOCTOR I WANT IF THEY GET SICK FROM CORONAVIRUS?
The answer to this question largely depends on whether you have primary or joint physical or legal custody. Only review of an existing order or agreement can answer this question. If possible, you should have these conversations as soon as possible with your co-parent. It is much easier to plan on where you will take the children in an emergency well in advance, than wait until you are on the way to a doctor hospital. The best way to handle this type of stressful scenario proactively, is to discuss possible scenarios, and jointly decide a plan of action in the event of an emergency.
I NEED TO REDUCE MY ALIMONY PAYMENTS OR CHILD SUPPORT DUE TO A REDUCTION IN INCOME FROM THE CORONAVIRUS.
Can I stop paying alimony or child support if my income is drastically reduced due to COVID-19? We must all must follow court orders. We understand that a drastic and unanticipated reduction in income could make it difficult to comply with pre-existing court orders regarding alimony or child support. If this becomes an issue, you should contact an attorney to decide how best to proceed. However, you should not simply 'just stop paying' without taking further legal action.
To speak with a lawyer about divorce or MA alimony matter, contact Mavrides Law in Boston or Wellesley, MA. To schedule an in-depth initial consultation, call 617-723-9900 or contact the firm at firstname.lastname@example.org
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