The coronavirus has prompted many changes for families around the globe. Fear, uncertainty, financial stress and being stuck at home have caused marital strains and led to an increase in divorce filings. In Colorado, courtroom shutdowns early in the pandemic created a significant backlog of cases in the family law department. Thousands of divorce, custody and other family law cases are now on hold or slowly being processed through virtual means. If you plan on filing for divorce, expect – most likely – a delay in the processing of your case.
Delays and Complications for Divorces During COVID-19
A COVID-19 divorce will not look the same as a pre-pandemic divorce case in Colorado. Under pandemic conditions, the Colorado courts are shut down to most in-person visits. They are handling new and backlogged nonemergency cases virtually whenever possible. Due to the backlog, the courts are prioritizing emergency cases over others. If your divorce case involves domestic abuse or threats to a child’s safety, for example, the courts will put your case first.
Before COVID-19, the average divorce case in Colorado could resolve within about 8 to 10 weeks. Today, however, the courts are warning parties to expect an added three to four months for delayed divorce processing. If your situation is one that can deal with a delay in processing, you may not need to worry about court proceedings during COVID-19. If you need a divorce sooner for safety reasons, however, proceed with your case and request expedited services for a domestic abuse situation.
If the courts accept and process your case during the pandemic, expect most – if not all – services to be done virtually. Meetings with your divorce lawyer will take place through video technology or over the phone. Your attorney will file the paperwork electronically on your behalf. Many judges in Colorado are using video technologies to conduct trials without in-person meetings if a divorce case goes to trial. Your Denver family law lawyer can help you navigate the new electronic way to handle a divorce case during the pandemic.
Cases the Courts Are Hearing
In March and April, the Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice ordered courts across the state to suspend many operations to help decrease the spread of the coronavirus. This order called for a suspension of jury trials, other than criminal trials with imminent deadlines. It allowed the courts to remain open for other matters, including restraining order hearings, bail hearings, juvenile detention hearings and motions to restrict parenting time.
Municipal courts can make their own administrative decisions on whether or not to remain open. For the most part, family courts in Colorado are only currently open for emergency cases until further notice. If your divorce case is a nonemergency matter, you may have to wait until the courts reopen for your trial date. You could also try to settle your divorce case without going to court for a faster process.
Divorce Alternatives to Avoid Going to Court
COVID-19 might have significantly delayed the family court system in Colorado, but that does not necessarily mean it will affect your divorce case directly. It may be possible to get a divorce without a long delay if you and your spouse can achieve a settlement through a collaborative divorce process. A collaborative divorce is one in which you both work together to agree upon the terms of your split. It is an alternative dispute resolution process.
If you and your spouse can compromise on things such as parenting time and property division, a judge in Colorado may sign off on your divorce without requiring litigation. Working with a divorce attorney in Denver could improve your chances of achieving a collaborative divorce that does not become one of the thousands of backlogged cases in Colorado. Skipping the in-court process can be the best way to achieve an efficient divorce during the pandemic.