Top 5 Questions And Answers About Family Law Presented During Court Buddy's May Meet-Up
Katie Lyon Student – University of California, Berkeley
Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Court Buddy began hosting monthly virtual Legal Meet-Ups to help people get advice from real lawyers on pressing legal topics. The Meet-Ups are run in a panel format, mediated by Court Buddy’s Chief Legal Officer Jennifer McGlone who asks the panelists questions submitted by you, our Court Buddy users.
The first legal meet-up was held on May 8th and was attended by around 250 people across the United States. Seven Court Buddy lawyers participated as panelists.
Bradley Bailyn, Eafon Cobb, Lou Russo, Patricia De Fonte, Neil Opdahl-Lopez, Michael Neumann, and Bowen Klosinski discussed topics ranging from landlord-tenant issues to unemployment.
Neil Opdahl-Lopez was our panelist answering questions on family law issues. He is a Southern California based attorney specializing in DUI defense and family law.
With courts around the country closed, ensuring the protection of legal rights is a challenge embedded within the COVID-19 crisis. For this reason, much of the Meet Up focused on answering the frequent questions we receive at Court Buddy from people concerned about such family law issues as:
- Child visitation rights
- Child support payments.
Here are Mr. Opdahl-Lopez’s answers, and here are the top five questions and answers about handling landlord-tenant issues presented during Court Buddy’s May meet-up:
1. What are my visitation rights with my kids during the pandemic?
Your rights have not changed, even if they are harder to enforce now.
“Regardless of whether the courts are closed,” Neil Opdahl-Lopez stated, “Your rights are the same… So you should have the same access that you always had according to [your] court awarded decree.”
Jennifer McGlone says, “Always try the human touch.” She urged people to work out visitation issues as best as possible outside of the courtroom. Given that “the courts are closed and what you can do about your rights is compromised,” it is best to try to resolve these issues between co-parents.
If this approach does not work, Neil Opdahl-Lopez adds, “There’s mediators or family counselors.”
2. Can I get a divorce during COVID-19?
Most courts are closed to non-emergency orders, but with some exceptions. So it depends on your jurisdiction whether you can still file for divorce during this time.
Jennifer McGlone said, “It probably depends state-by-state as to whether or not the family law courts are open. And if they are only open for emergency motions, which many courts are, how that court defines an emergency motion [is variable].”
Additionally, it is possible that the court in your area is “still accepting paper by mail but not holding hearings.” Look for information from your area to clarify, or get legal counsel to assist you through the process.
See here for more advice about filing for divorce during the pandemic.
3. Do I have to pay child support during COVID-19? What happens if I can’t?
Yes, you still have to pay. Your legal obligations have not changed.
Neil Opdahl-Lopez said, “If you're in a position to pay your child support, absolutely pay it.”
If you can’t, however, he thinks it’s unlikely you’ll face the same penalties that you would under normal circumstances.
He believes judges will be sympathetic to the economic hardships people are facing during this time. Opdahl-Lopez said, “Judges staying actions on taking away people's driver's license or other privileges under the law in the meantime.”
4. Can I get my child support payments reduced during the pandemic?
Yes, you still can.
Given that over 33 million Americans have lost their jobs since March, your financial conditions may have changed. Your child support payments can be reduced to account for that.
At the May 8th Legal Meet-Up, Neil Opdahl-Lopez explained that requesting a reduction in your child support payments is “done by an RFO (a request for order), or a modification.”
Specific procedures depend on what jurisdiction you are in. But whatever process you used to arrange a child support agreement in the first place, the same process should be used again.
5. Everything was taken out of my stimulus check due to back child support. Can I get any of my stimulus money back?
Despite the fact that the IRS will usually take the arrears you owe out of your tax refunds, stimulus checks should be different. This was the case for one of Neil Odahl-Lopez’s clients, who still, despite owing back child support, received the entire amount of their stimulus checks.
As an underlying theme to the Legal Meet-Up, Jennifer McGlone reminded listeners that these nuances exemplify the importance of consulting an attorney. “Different outcomes can happen to different people based on their facts,” so you should find an attorney to help with your individual case.
If you would like to learn more, an excerpt of the transcript covering family law issues is available here.
The next Court Buddy Legal Meet-Up will be held via zoom on June 26th. You can sign up to ask a question on our website or by calling us at 866-653-3017.
Court Buddy is here to connect you with an experienced and trusted lawyer who can help you at an affordable rate. The company assists with the management of your case and lawyer relationship. Your lawyer will assess your legal issue in a timely and confidential manner, explain why you need or do not need a lawyer, and only charge you for the legal services performed and associated out of pocket fees. This article is intended to convey general information and does not constitute legal advice.