Are the courts closed?
No, the Tennessee courts are not closed. The Tennessee Supreme Court did issue an order that closed our courts to in-person hearings (with some exceptions), then later issued another order that modified and extended the first order. You can find further updates about the courts in the Nashville (Davidson County) area here.
What all this means for you is for most cases, your case can proceed and I can still help you move your case to a resolution. However, your “day in court” may be a little different. The local judges are adopting video teleconference technology to help resolve smaller issues that arise in pending cases. If your divorce is settled by agreement, the judges are holding final hearings on those by phone or video.
However, trials that will require a lot of testimony are on hold for a while. Some things are important enough to reserve for a time when all parties and their witnesses can appear and testify in person before a judge. Other minor issues that are not pressing are also being delayed.
With relation to divorce and custody cases, there are still some hearings that are taking place in person, in the courtrooms:
- Orders of Protection. If a family member, person you live with, or a romantic partner is physically harming you, or you believe there is a legitimate and immediate possibility of being harmed, you should consider seeking an order of protection. Those hearings are still taking place in person.
- Temporary Restraining Orders. A temporary restraining order is a bit similar to an order of protection, but the process and reasons to obtain one are different. However, the hearings for these actions are still taking place in-person.
- Department of Children’s Services emergency matters. These usually relate to the placement of minor children due to some kind of alleged negligence or abuse.
There are others, but these are the primary issues you are likely to encounter as part of a family law case.
Are you open? Can I file for divorce?
Yes you can. I’m working primarily from home, but I am still working during my normal hours and we can meet by phone, video conference, or conduct business by email. I can still meet in person if necessary, although I’m trying to avoid it when possible. In any case, I can take your case, we can develop your pleadings, we can get you some help.
Davidson County has electronic filing, which means your case can be started without anyone ever going to the courthouse. Surrounding counties are adopting other workarounds to allow new cases to be filed. Some things are a little more tedious than before, but your courts are adapting and we are getting things done.
Can I still visit my children?
If you have a parenting plan already in place and there has been no order from a court to suspend your parenting time, then yes. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order 22, which is our “stay at home” order. The following Order (23) made Order 22 a mandatory stay at home order. Notice that section 9f says that traveling with children pursuant to a custody agreement is “essential travel”. The Governor’s order was not intended to stop your parenting time. Yes, you should still be parenting and exchanging the children just as you were before.
Call me for help.
If you need to file for divorce, or if the other parent won’t let you see your child, or if you have any other kind of family law matter, call me at 615-244-1018 x 102 or send me an email at Lawrence@StaceyandBallew.com. I would be happy to help you resolve your issues.