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New York COVID and Family Law Proceedings

Due to the COVID crisis and the Governor’s stay-at-home order, all New York courts, including Family Court and the New York State Supreme Court, are closed except for emergency and essential matters. All family court orders including child custody, visitation, child support remain in effect. Pending non-essential and pending non-emergency matters have been postponed until further notice. For emergency and essential matters, the Family Court has been operating virtually by video and telephonic connection. As of April 13, 2020, Family Court is also hearing non-essential, pending matters, but is still not accepting new cases that involve non-essential or non-emergency matters.

Essential Family Court and Supreme Court matters
On March 22, 2020 Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts issued an order that listed the Family Court and Supreme Court proceedings that are considered essential.

  • Family Court:
    • Child protection intake cases involving removal applications
    • Newly filed juvenile delinquency intake cases involving remand placement applications, or modifications
    • Emergency family offense petitions/temporary orders of protection
    • Orders to show cause
    • Stipulations on submission
  • Supreme Court:
    • Mental Hygiene Law (MHL) applications and hearings addressing patient retention or release
    • MHL hearings addressing the involuntary administration of medical care
    • New filed MHL applications for an assisted outpatient treatment plan
    • Emergency applications in guardianship matters
    • Temporary orders of protection
    • Emergency applications related to the coronavirus
    • Extreme risk protection orders
Visitation

If you are the noncustodial or nonresidential parent, you may have concerns that you may not see your child while the stay-at-home mandate is in place. Custody and visitation orders remain in force and unless a parent is under COVID-19 quarantine, both custodial and noncustodial parents are required to follow them.

Child Support

Child support orders remain in force. If you are under an obligation to pay child support, you must do so. If you have lost your job or if your income has been reduced due to COVID-19, you still must pay child support according to the terms of an existing order.

  • Child support modification. Because the income of many New Yorkers has been drastically reduced due to the state-at-home orders, school closures, and business closures, it has been difficult for some to pay child support. If you have a reduction in income you may qualify for a downward modification in your child support obligation. However, you must file a petition in Family Court to request it. Because Family Court is not hearing any new cases that are not related to essential or emergency matters and a child support modification is not considered an essential or emergency matter, you have to wait until Family Court resumes hearing new cases to file your child support modification petition. Even though Family Court is not hearing new cases now, make sure that you file your petition as soon as you can. If your petition for child support modification is eventually approved by the court, it is retroactive to the date of filing.
  • Child support enforcement. You may be wondering if enforcement actions will be taken against you if you are unable to pay child support due to the stay-at-home mandate. Local child support enforcement offices are reviewing child support enforcement issues. If you have questions regarding enforcement or need to report an enforcement issue, you must contact your local child support office either by email (recommended) or by phone at 888-208-4485.
  • Child support administrative matters. Because child support offices are closed, it is handling administrative matters virtually. For matters such as making a payment, changing your address, updating direct deposit information, submitting forms, or to ask questions, you can find instructions here.
Spousal maintenance

Court ordered spousal maintenance remains in force. If you are under an obligation to pay spousal maintenance, you must do so. If you have lost your job or if you income has been reduced due to COVID-19, you still must pay spousal maintenance according to the terms of an existing order.

  • Modification of spousal maintenance. In New York one of the reasons that spousal maintenance can be modified is if there has been at least a 15% change in your income. If you have been ordered to pay your former spouse maintenance and your income has been significantly reduced to due to COVID-19, you may be entitled to a downward reduction in your spousal maintenance obligation. However, you must petition the court to request it. Because the courts are not considering new matters that are not essential or emergency, you cannot now petition the court for a spousal maintenance modification. Still, you should file your petition as soon as possible. Even though it is unknown as to when your case will be heard, if the court eventually grants your petition the effective date of the modification will be as of when you filed your petition.
Divorce

In New York divorce proceedings are not considered essential or emergency matters. Your case will have to wait until courts resume normal operations. If you have a pending hearing, the court will notify you about rescheduling the hearing. Note that even if your divorce is uncontested, you still must file forms with the court, attend a hearing, and the court must issue a final judgement of divorce.

Temporary orders of protection

On March 19, 2020, the New York Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts issued an administrator order that temporary orders of protection which are due to expire while the courts are closed have been extended and are still in effect. All conditions of the order musts be obeyed until parties are otherwise notified.

Note that the special COVID-related rules related to court hearings are subject to change at any time and may differ from court to court. Check back to this page for updates. Also, check the website of the specific court handling your matter.

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