You continue to have access to justice and the ability to defend your constitutional rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in order to protect the public’s health and safety, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea recently issued an order limiting everyone’s physical access to Minnesota State Courts. While we can be sure that more change is likely, here are some answers that may help you navigate your family law case during this time of uncertainty:
- What If I Want to File a New Case, Motion, or Other Documents? You may continue filing any new family law case, motion, or other documents; however, no one will be permitted to submit filings at a court facility. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney will do so electronically via the court’s electronic case filing system. If you are not represented, or pro se, you may be asked by the court to submit your filing by email, mail, or another method.
- What If I Already Have or Need a Motion Hearing Scheduled? Some motion hearings scheduled for family law matters, including those designated as a “high” or “super high” priority level on the Limited Court Service Case Priorities List, may be held at this time; however, the court may still decide to suspend these types of hearings. All other motion hearings designated as “medium” or “low” priority will be suspended.
- “High” priority motion hearings will not be held in person. And, while they may be held either by telephone, video, another remote technology, or by review of the parties’ submissions without oral argument, the court may still decide it is not feasible to proceed and may reschedule the hearing.
- “Super high” priority motions, including emergency requests for modification of custody and orders for protection (OFPs), may be held in person and, if so, to the extent possible, will follow the current social distancing guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Health, including proximity and the number of people present. However, again, courts have discretion whether it is feasible to proceed with or reschedule these types of hearings.
It is wise to file new motions sooner rather than later, even if the hearing date is suspended. This will ensure your legal matter is prioritized once the courts begin scheduling hearings again.
- What If I Already Have a Trial Scheduled? Again, only trials scheduled for family law matters designated as a “super high” or “high” priority level, specifically those where custody and parenting time are at issue, may be held at this time. These trials may be held in person and, again, will adhere to social distancing guidelines. Still, the courts have discretion whether it is feasible to proceed with or reschedule trials. All other trials designated as “medium” or “low” priority will be suspended.
- Do I Have to Follow Case Deadlines? Unless amended by the presiding judge or by an order of the Supreme Court, all case deadlines established by Court Rules remain in effect.
- Are There Other Options for Resolving My Dispute? Yes, many Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) professionals continue to hold sessions by videoconference, including mediation, early neutral evaluation, and settlement conferences.
- What If I Have More Questions? Do not be discouraged if you do not have legal counsel. You may still contact district courts and self-help centers by phone or email or visit mncourts.gov for more information. That said, in light of the complexities arising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, now may be a good time to consider obtaining legal counsel that can better position you to navigate family law court.
At Maxim Smith Family Law PLLC, we have the vital experience and technical know-how to help clients successfully move their case forward during this uncertain time, either through the courts or an array of alternative dispute methods. We work closely with our clients, listening to both understand and tailor our approach to each unique circumstance. We offer virtual videoconference and telephone meetings. Social distancing has not impacted our ability to continue serving as strong and reliable advocates.