A lot of people have an attitude that the Covid-19 pandemic is “over.” This is simply not the case. If you are preparing to file for divorce in Texas, be prepared for Covid protocols to still be in effect. Effective April 1, 2022, the Supreme Court of Texas again declared a “state of disaster” in all 254 counties of Texas because of “the imminent threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.” This was the state’s 49th emergency order over Covid.
Texas Court Procedure During Covid
At any time, a judge can have an attorney, witness, court reporter, or grand juror provide testimony via video conference or telephone conference. People can be sworn in to testify remotely. Proceedings can be conducted away from the courthouse. The court also has the power to extend dismissal dates.
Courts Are Backlogged
With the ongoing Coronavirus situation, the Texas courts were limiting services initially to “essential services,” like criminal hearings and domestic violence. Needless to say, divorces were not a high priority at the beginning of the pandemic. About 90% of court proceedings were put on hold. The backlog is starting to be addressed now, but the process still requires patience.
Mediation Can Provide Relief
If you are relying on a judge to tell you how much to pay for alimony or child support and to split your marital assets for you, don’t expect your divorce to be resolved soon. If you or your spouse are willing to try an out-of-court method of alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, you have a much better chance of reaching a settlement without a judge’s involvement. The vast majority of Texas divorces are resolved out of court, so it is very much a realistic solution.
The mediation process involves having a professionally-trained, impartial third party sit with you and your spouse in a calm, informal atmosphere. The mediator will talk through everything that needs to be resolved. You and your spouse can agree to have your lawyers present during mediation, or you can agree it will just be the two of you alone. Studies have shown that couples who are represented by a divorce lawyer are more likely to settle out of court and to agree to amicable terms.
The Good News
Many counties in Texas are finalizing divorces without requiring a court appearance of any kind throughout the process. Typically, in even the most amicable cases, a court appearance is always required. The judge asks a few questions and makes sure all of the information on your documents is correct. While Covid can mean delays, there are definitely some conveniences that come with it.
Get Started by Contacting a Sugar Land Divorce Lawyer
Jamie Jordan PLLC is a Sugar Land divorce lawyer who knows how to navigate the “new normal” in the local court system. Because of the divorce backlog in our courts, getting started sooner rather than later is advised. Contact us today for a free consultation (virtually or in-person) if you are in Sugar Land or nearby.