How North Carolina family law courts are adapting to the challenges of COVID-19
Over the last few months, much activity in the United States has ground to a halt because of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus. With more than 135,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, everyone in the state is adjusting to a new normal. If you have a case pending in a North Carolina family court or expect to have one soon, you may be wondering how the coronavirus will affect your case.
Courts and COVID-19
On March 27, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper issued an order directing people in North Carolina to stay at home, allowing limited exceptions. As a result, courts across the state implemented safety measures. Governor Cooper ordered courts to maintain distancing and to facilitate remote or online access whenever possible. Only people with business at the courthouse can enter, and the courts encourage, and in some cases require, masks and face coverings to enter. Courthouses have placed signs on doors limiting entry for people who have traveled within the last 14 days or may have been exposed to, or have symptoms of, COVID-19. Other safety measures include:
- Courts will account for social distancing when scheduling cases.
- The court will conduct some family court hearings by teleconference.
- People may submit some documents that require a notary with a signed statement under penalty of perjury.
- People may now serve some documents on an attorney or opposing party by email.
- The court will consider filings by mail to be timely if received within five days of the due date.
- Clerks may require appointments and limit the hours that they make public records available.
- Require that magistrates continue to perform marriages.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, Cheri Beasley, extended these measures until August 28, 2020. People who may have been exposed to the coronavirus or can't otherwise enter the courthouse can call the clerk of the superior court's office for instructions on how to complete their business before the court.
If you need an emergency order related to child custody or another family law matter, it may be a bit more complicated in the time or COVID-19. Your attorney will need to contact the court and provide you with further instructions. Although the court generally only grants emergency custody orders if there is a substantial risk of harm to a child, your attorney can assist you. The family court may provide a telephonic or video conference to ensure that you receive a prompt hearing.
If you have a question about a family law matter in North Carolina and don't currently have an attorney, please give me a call at 919-719-2785 or contact me online. I'm an experienced family law attorney, and I'm happy to help you find a solution.