COVID-19: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
On April 3rd, the 4th Judicial Chief Judge, Hon. William Bain, issued an updated order regarding
El Paso and Teller Court operations due to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
pandemic. In summary, the order is an extension of previous orders but
does include some important changes as well. We are fielding questions
every day from current and prospective clients about what this means for
them. To assist our clients and the public, we have summarized key points
during this unprecedented time where things are constantly changing and evolving.
Jurors with summons for trials between April 6, 2020 and April 17, 2020 in the 4th Judicial District should not report for jury duty.
(Please note this notice serves as a summary only, for the types of cases
that KHM serves. For further guidance regarding criminal and other civil
matters please review the applicable orders on the 4th Judicial District Court Website)
Colorado Supreme Court Restricts Court Operations Through May 15, 2020
by order of Chief Justice Coats
On March 16, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Colorado issued
an original order suspending all but essential services of the courts.
Like most orders since the beginning of the pandemic, and similar to the 4th Judicial District’s prior order, this order was extended on March
20, 2020, now expiring May 15, 2020.
This does not mean that the courts are closed. What it means is that only
the most essential and emergency hearings will be held, and court staff
reduced. Each judicial district is then tasked with executing their own orders.
4th Judicial District Extends Restrictions on Local Court Operations Through
May 1, 2020
Pursuant to the order issued April 3, 2020, the El Paso and Teller County
courthouses are closed to the public through May 1, 2020. However, this
does not mean that access to the court is suspended. This simply means
that all non-essential business is suspended or not occurring in person,
and the courthouse is not open for regular public business such as paper
filings, marriage ceremonies, and observation.
are only being accepted for matters related to public safety. Those matters are
- Petitions for Temporary Civil Protection Orders and Permanent Protection
- Petitions for Temporary Emergency Risk Protection Orders and Hearings on the same;
- Criminal Procedure Rule 5 Advisements;
- Juvenile Detention and Advisement Hearings;
- Dependency and Neglect Shelter Hearings;
- Petitioner for Appointment of an Emergency Guardian and/or Special Conservator
and associated Hearings;
- Emergency Mental Health Filings and Proceedings;
- Hearings on Motions to Restrict Parenting Time and Parental Abduction Prevention;
- Other proceedings deemed necessary by the Chief Judge to prevent a substantial
risk of imminent financial hardship or imminent risk to the health, safety,
or welfare of any individual or members of the community.
Almost all regular
family law matters scheduled before May 1, 2020, are either postponed, cancelled, or not
taking place in person. These hearings include: Allocation of Parental
Responsibilities, Dissolution of Marriage, Legal Separation, Paternity,
Child Support Establishment, Modifications of Parenting Time/Child Support/Spousal
Maintenance, Initial Status Conferences, Pre-Trial Conferences, and Temporary Orders.
The only domestic relations hearings regularly occurring as scheduled are
Emergency Hearings to Restrict Parenting Time and Motions for Abduction
If you have a hearing scheduled on or before May 1, 2020, your attorney
or you, if unrepresented, need to contact the division clerk to determine
whether or not your hearing is cancelled, rescheduled, or will take place
via alternative means such as telephonically or video conference.
The Court is maintaining regular operations for Civil Protection Order cases.
The Court is closed. Can I still file for
child custody? For years, attorneys in domestic relation cases have had the ability to
file all cases electronically. Recently, the Court offered pro se litigants
the ability to do the same.
I lost my job, can I still
file for modification of
child support or spousal maintenance?
Motions can be filed electronically, and signatures can occur electronically.
Also, Colorado Secretary of State just passed Temporary Regulations allowing
for remote notarization services. Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-122, modification
occurs at the time of the hearing, but is retroactive to the 1st of the month following the motion being filed. However, remember the hearing
is based upon the facts at the time of the hearing, so if it is a temporary
issue, working things out with the other side, if possible, is your best option.
My Hearing got cancelled. Now what? If you do not have a new date, your attorney or yourself, if you do not
have an attorney, should contact the division for a new date or direction
to file a new Notice to Set.
How long is the system going to be backlogged? This is the million-dollar question, no one knows how long things will
last on a modified schedule. It is the goal of the 4th Judicial District to handle cases via video conference or telephone when
able, to reduce the backlog that the system will undoubtably suffer, however
there will be a delay. The 4th Judicial District is a busy district, before pandemic delays, some division
were setting cases into 2021. Often times, clients are disappointed in
having to wait 4 months of more for a hearing date. This is out of anyone’s
control and has to do with the volume. This is something that both attorneys
and judges have little control over.
I don’t want to wait months for resolution. What are my options? Settlement, Alternative Dispute Resolution, or Private Judge. Coronavirus
does not prevent parties from being flexible, reaching compromises, and
settling their cases. This is your best bet in the midst of a pandemic
for the quickest resolution of your case. Although you cannot control
the other side, you can control yours. We often times recommend that parties
make a list of the things or issues that are more important to them, which
are “wish list” items, and which they would be willing to
negotiate or give up to get something on their most important list. It
is helpful to have them predict, based upon their knowledge of the other
party what their list may look like. Sometimes this structure helps shift
the focus to compromise.
Parties in Colorado can agree to binding Arbitration in dissolution, custody,
and modification matters. Arbitration usually occurs after Mediation and
is where the parties select a private individual to issue a binding award
to be submitted to the Court for approval and order. It is a useful tool
for parties who want to avoid waiting for a court date.
There is also the option of hiring a private judge. This is generally a
retired Judge who files certain paperwork to get the authority to act
as a private judge. Although proceedings take place outside of the courthouse,
the structure of hearings and pretrial matters are the same as trials.
Mediations in the 4th Judicial District
If you have a Mediation scheduled through the 4th Judicial District Office of Dispute Resolution, your attorney or you need
to contact them, via telephone at (719) 452-5005, to either reschedule
or schedule the mediation to occur via telephone or video conference.
If your Mediation is scheduled with a private mediator, most have video
conference operations and are operating on schedule. However, good practice
is to contact them and confirm your mediation date.
4th Judicial chief Judge Gives Direction Regarding Parenting Time During COVID-19
Also, contained in the April 3, 2020 order, Hon. Chief Justice Bain gave
some guidance to families within our jurisdiction. In the order it affirmatively states:
All Parties are advised that all existing court orders, including parenting
time and parenting exchange orders, are not suspended by the Stay-at-Home
Order issued by Governor Jared Polis, and shall continue to be followed
unless otherwise modified by the court or agreement of the parties.
This is the very same guidance that we sent to our own clients last week.
Unless you have a court order stating to the contrary, you must follow
the current parenting time orders.
Video Appearances. For video appearances, parties need to have internet, web camera, and
microphone capabilities. If you do not….
Click the link above to learn how to use WebEx for your hearing.
Click the link above to learn how to use Zoom for your hearing.
With the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic, separated and divorced coparents
are dealing with unprecedented and frightening circumstances. To help