Some of you may have been considering filing for divorce prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Others may have been nudged in that direction after an extended stay-at-home order was issued. Regardless of how you got there, you all may be wondering whether you can still divorce right now.
What impact did the pandemic have on the judicial system?
Here is the short answer to some of those questions. First, you can still divorce in Maine right now. The courts still accept divorce complaints. They are still scheduling divorce hearings and child custody actions.
As you can read in my previous blog titled, “I’ve Been Served with Divorce Papers, Now What?” the standard procedure for a divorce or child custody action still holds true. One person files the complaint. The other party will be served with the complaint. After the appropriate documents have been filed with the court, the court schedules either a case management or status conference.
Although the civil division of the sheriff’s office that serves the complaints briefly closed, divorce cases are still moving forward during the pandemic. That said, there is a bit of a delay as the pandemic and our response continues to evolve. The CDC regulations and the policies of the courthouses change regularly.
One thing that remains constant is the desire for the court to continue to move cases along to provide stability for families and child custody matters. From March through June, the court was limited in its ability to do anything with cases other than child protection and criminal matters. The good news is that things have slowly started to resemble pre-COVID times. Well, except for the masks and all.
Courts have started scheduling matters for telephonic and videoconferences to help push things along. Socially distant hearings and trials with masks have become the new normal. Courts have also started to implement video mediations, which allow cases to move towards a resolution rather than being stagnant due to the pandemic.
Courts even allow people, in limited circumstances, to divorce over the phone. For instance, if the parties reach an agreement at the video mediation. Rather than waiting for an in-person court event to take place, the court hears uncontested divorce matters by phone.
If you have either been served with a divorce, child custody paperwork, or think that you need to start the process, the courts and mediators, along with the attorneys at Rudman Winchell, are still available to assist.