No one saw this coming. No one planned for divorce during coronavirus, divorce during quarantine, Zoom meetings for divorce consultations or social distancing in courtrooms. Even in normal circumstances divorce isn’t the same for any two people. The coronavirus pandemic has given everyone some unique stories of pivoting in our new world, and a Texas divorce during COVID-19 IN Denton County looks different, but is still happening. People are wondering if they can start a divorce now, finish their divorce during the pandemic, and if so, how will the courts work during coronavirus, and how will they finish a divorce during a pendemic.
Denton County Divorce
Let’s start at the beginning. In Texas, and specifically Denton County, our Judges and courts are still working. The Denton County District Clerk’s Office is still open and Original Petitions for Divorce can still filed. Divorce attorneys have been using electronic filing (efiling) for years, and I haven’t even experienced a hiccup in efiling an Original Petition for Divorce during the quarantine or after. The beauty of efiling has been that it has allowed divorce lawyers to file more documents than we did pre-pandemic, and judges and their staff can review and work on the Original Petitions for Divorce, divorce pleadings and divorce cases remotely.
The Denton County District Clerk’s website has links to the Supreme Court Emergency Orders and the COVID-19 Operating Plan for our courts. The judges and their staff are taking precautions and necessary restrictions to ensure their health and safety as well as the health and safety of anyone attending court. The judges and their staff members are conducting their jobs remotely to the extent that they are able to do so including wearing face masks, practicing social distancing and recommended hygiene practices as recommended by Denton County Public Health Department.
Denton County judges can require remote divorce hearings for both essential and nonessential types of divorce hearings in cases. The remote hearings are being conducted using Zoom and being made available for public access using YouTube to see the live proceedings. The judges are also accepting submitted divorce pleadings and divorce statements of evidence for consideration in granting divorces.
This can affect a hearing in a divorce case. A hearing may be necessary to keep a Texas divorce moving, and still be deemed nonessential by the Court’s rules. Therefore, the type of question at the heart of the issue in each divorce will determine what happens next, how quickly it can happen and the logistics of how a hearing will happen.
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Divorce Negotiation and Online Divorce Mediation
Negotiations in divorce can continue and has continued between parties directly and between attorneys. Divorce negotiations during coronavirus should continue on like normal. Divorce attorneys can and do negotiate via email and phone calls and could meet via an online platform for a settlement conference.
Online mediation is an excellent option for reaching agreements in divorce and family law cases during COVID-19. Family law mediators and divorce mediators are taking their mediation skills to online platforms like Zoom. I’ve taken advantage of my time in quarantine to take online mediation training to increase the benefits I can offer in my online mediations and have seen benefits for my online mediation clients.
Concluding a divorce during the Coronavirus pandemic can be very straightforward. When spouses are able to reach an agreement and prepare divorce settlement agreements to conclude their divorce, the Agreed Final Decree of Divorce can be submitted for the Judge’s review and consideration, with additional required documents, and the divorce granted. Some people are focusing on the business of divorce, and working through emotional issues separately to conclude their divorce as efficiently and minimize costs.
Another new offering in my office are fixed fees (sometimes call flat fees). Fixed fees in divorce don’t mean minimal service and the cheapest divorce. Rather, fixed fees are certainty. Fixed fees give clients certainty of the expense and freedom to communicate with your lawyer during uncertain times and ask questions when those things feel out of control.
Our Denton County courts are continuing to conclude divorce cases and family law cases. As an experienced Lewisville divorce attorney, I have continued to work on cases and expand my services by offering fixed fees in divorce, negotiation, online divorce mediation, and using efiling submissions of agreed orders.
If you’d like to talk about divorce during COVID-19, online divorce mediation, agreed divorce, or have questions about a Texas divorce,I am happy to meet with you by phone or using Zoom. Call Jill O’Connell, Lewisville divorce attorney and we’ll schedule your consultation -972-203-6644.