How Your Arizona Divorce Proceeding is Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic
The public safety measures adopted in Arizona to block the spread of the coronavirus have led to curtailment of court operations, including divorce proceedings. Although the courts are considered “essential” and have remained open, they are running with reduced court personnel, schedule adjustments and use of electronic communications to avoid courtroom gatherings. It is important to be aware of the impact these changes may have on your divorce, whether planned or in progress, even as court operations slowly return to normal.
The Superior Court of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and Scottsdale, is using modified procedures in divorce cases as follows:
- Initial filings — Initial divorce petitions and accompanying paperwork cannot be filed electronically, but litigants can file these materials by mail or by using the designated external filing depository boxes available at four locations in Maricopa County.
- Ongoing filings — Once a divorce case has been opened, post-petition documents such as replies, motions and notices can be filed online. There are instructions for electronic filing available on the Maricopa County Clerk of the Superior Court website.
- Conciliation services — Currently, the court’s Conciliation Services unit is not scheduling appointments but is accepting petitions seeking their assistance. It will contact applicants when appointment scheduling resumes.
- Hearings — Hearings and conferences in front of a judge will be conducted by telephone or videoconferencing depending on the judge’s orders. Judges are allowed to grant in-person hearings on a case-by-case basis if they are deemed necessary.
As of June 1, the Maricopa County courts began a transition plan to resume in-person operations, including hearings and other procedures. However, the transition will be slow and initially will concentrate on criminal cases. Divorces and related family court matters are likely to be handled remotely for a considerable period of time, since most aspects of those cases do not require physical presence.
There are frequent updates to COVID-19 safety measures in the courthouses that will affect litigants as court operations return to normal. These include health screening protocols, occupancy controls and limits on duration of hearings. A knowledgeable family law attorney can answer your questions about how to proceed with your divorce proceeding during this difficult time.
Mark Cord in Scottsdale, Arizona has over 40 years of experience in family law, serving the entire Phoenix metropolitan area. Call us at 480-994-0345 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.