As we continue to learn new information and gather new data with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court systems in Central Ohio have slowly adjusted their procedures to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances. Here is how a couple of the domestic courts in central Ohio are handling the process:
Franklin County – Attorneys in our office have been told that “children are taking priority over dollars.” Divorces with no children, therefore, are being placed on the back-burner in favor of divorces where custody and visitation issues require attention. Although it can vary between each judge and magistrate, generally, only emergencies, domestic violence issues, and evidentiary hearings are being held in-person. Almost all other hearings are being held remotely, either via Zoom or telephone, and most of these are “attorneys only.” Face coverings are required at all times when present in the Franklin County Court.
Delaware County – While Delaware County lifted their “emergency-only” in-person hearing policy on June 1, 2020, our office’s experience so far is that the Delaware County Domestic Court continues to schedule most, if not all, non-emergency hearings remotely via Zoom. This includes trials and evidentiary hearings. Our office has been scheduled for a divorce trial by Zoom all the way out to January of 2021.
Pickaway County – In late June/early July, Joanne Beasy and I had a four-day custody trial in Pickaway County. Because Pickaway’s juvenile courtroom was not large enough to accommodate adequate social distancing, the Court arranged for the trial to take place at the Circleville High School. The Court provided face-shields for the parties, attorneys, and court staff. The face-shields allowed for both clear communication as well as the ability to observe the demeanor of each witness.
Licking, Fairfield County – While our office has limited experience with these counties during the pandemic, we believe that these counties are starting to transition back to in-person hearings for most domestic cases and issues.
Finally, an issue that affects every county in Ohio, the Ohio Supreme Court’ s tolling Order. In March, the Ohio Supreme Court of Ohio issued an order that ‘tolled’ (or paused) time limits/deadlines that were set to expire under the Ohio Revised Code, Rules of Civil (and Juvenile) Procedure for the period of March 9, 2020 through July 30, 2020. This tolling order was not extended and has now expired. Further, the Supreme Court issued another Order on July 31,2020. Among other things, this Order allows for courts to:
-Waive requirements for:
- personal service
- in-person appearances by parties
– Allow appearances, service, and arguments by the use of technology.
-Allow remote administration of oaths or affirmations by the use of technology
Accordingly, with all time limits and deadlines recommencing and courts being provided wide latitude to remotely advance their dockets through the use of technology, we anticipate that cases will begin to progress at a pace more akin to pre-pandemic levels.
If you, or anyone you know, is looking to begin the divorce or dissolution process, we suggest proceeding sooner rather than later, in order to get the “clock” started.