COVID-19 has meant people from Georgia, the United States, and the world are all adapting to a new level of normal. Our team at Family Matters Law Group is also adjusting to best practices for responding to the coronavirus and operating in this new environment. While COVID-19 may have shut down other parts of normal life in the Atlanta area, family law matters like divorce, child custody, visitation, parenting time, and more still continue and require attention.
Below is how the Georgia court system is adapting and an update on how Family Matters Law Group continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic including what our clients, existing and new can expect from a divorce lawyer during this time.
With the state of Georgia opening up, there are so many rumors floating around making it difficult to know what is and isn’t happening with the Georgia court system. On Saturday, March 14, 2020, Chief Justice Harold D. Melton announced an initial Statewide Judicial Emergency that was set to end on Friday, April 13, 2020. This order has been extended twice, most recently on Monday, May 4, 2020.
The Statewide Judicial Emergency is currently in effect until Friday, June 12, 2020, at 11:59 pm with courts following safety measures and social distancing recommendations set by local county health departments, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the CDC. Under this new extension, all civil and criminal trials continue to be suspended and courts can’t summon or impanel new grand and trial juries.
Georiga courts do remain open to handle essential and critical court services. The new extension order encourages courts to start creating plans that will help build back up non-critical operations that can be done while adhering to public health guidelines or virtually via videoconferencing.
It also urges courts to increase their use of technology as a way to conduct judicial proceedings remotely when legally permitted instead of in-person proceedings as a way to help decrease the backlog once the Statewide Judicial Emergency is lifted.
What is and isn’t being done varies from each county and courtroom. Some counties have virtual mediation automatically part of the process and remote opportunities for hearings. Others require attorneys to request it and submit two mediator suggestions for judges to select from while still allowing for paperwork and motions to be filed. While not many, others have chosen not to incorporate any virtual or remote options.
The team at Family Matters Law Group is also following guidelines set by local county health departments, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the CDC within our office. This allows us to continue operations while keeping our clients, staff, and attorneys safe. Some procedures we have in place include:
We recognize the essential nature of the services we provide. Family law matters can’t be put on hold while other parts of life take over and we are dedicated to resolving divorce, child custody, and other family law issues in a timely manner. We continue to work with Henry, Clayton, Fayette, Fulton, and other counties, courts, and judges to find ways to allow our clients’ cases to move forward with as minimal of a delay as possible.