UPDATE: On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, the Court extended the cancellation of all family law dockets, including Judges’ family law dockets and family law trials, through May 4, 2020. The rest of the information and recommended best practices outlined below have not changed at this time.

Clark County Superior Court issued a press release on March 18, 2020 regarding their COVID-19 response and procedures. Clark County Superior Court handles all sorts of cases, but I am going to focus on what the Court calls “family law dockets.” Family law dockets include things like a Motion for Temporary Family Law Order, Motion for Contempt, Motion for Reconsideration, Motion for Attorney’s Fees, Petition for Modification of Child Support, Motion for Adequate Cause, etc. In addition to family law dockets, the Court addressed any Judge’s family law dockets and family law trials. As of March 18, 2020, all family law dockets, including Judges’ family law dockets and family law trials, are canceled through April 24, 2020.

If you have an ongoing family law matter, or a family law issue requiring a case being filed and court intervention, do not panic.  The Court understands that emergencies happen, and they are not leaving people to deal with those emergencies on their own. In part, the release states:

Requests for special set hearings will be considered for emergent issues…. To request a special set for telephonic hearing contact the assigned departments as follows:

  1. a. Family law cases with the exception of the self-represented finalizations – contact the assigned judicial department.
  2. ….

Examples of emergent and/or necessary court involvement include, but are not limited to: temporary restraining orders, child safety concerns, financial concerns that limit a party’s ability to meet basic needs, etc.

If you think you are experiencing an emergency (i.e. spouse is threatening to kick you out and wants a divorce, spouse has cut off all support and you have no other income, other parent is withholding the child, etc.), then you need to contact an attorney to find out the appropriate documents to file. If you have an ongoing family law matter, then you will likely need to put together a Motion and supporting documents. If you don’t have an ongoing family law matter, then you will need to put together the initial documents to get one started, as well as a Motion and supporting documents. 

IMPORTANT: If you are experiencing an emergency that involves harm or threat of future harm, then you can likely file a Motion for Immediate Restraining Order or a Domestic Violence Protection Order, and that can be handled at ex parte – the process explained below will potentially need to be followed when scheduling the follow-up hearing, but the Judge and assisting clerks at ex parte should have the process for you to follow at the time you obtain an order at ex parte.

Recommended Best Practices 

This release was just issued today, so standard procedures have not been determined at this time. Based on my experience with the court system, and what I think might be the most efficient way to handle emergent issues, I outline what I think may be the best practices below.

  1. Once you have completed documents, you will need to take them to the Clerk’s Office at the courthouse to file. If you are just starting a family law matter, make sure you ask who your assigned Commissioner is. If you have an existing family law matter, you need to confirm with the Clerk’s Office whether your hearing needs to be in front of the Commissioner or Judge. You will not be filing a Notice of Hearing at this time, because you don’t have a special set date yet, and any dates inside the cancellation window (March 18th to April 24th) will be automatically rejected.
  2. After you file, you need to contact your assigned Commissioner/Judge’s assistant to see if the Commissioner/Judge will consider your Motion at a special set hearing. Call the Clerk’s Office to be connected with your assigned Commissioner/Judge’s assistant. Inform the Commissioner/Judge’s assistant that you filed a Motion and supporting materials, and you would like the Commissioner/Judge to consider approving a special set hearing. The assistant will likely tell you that the Commissioner/Judge will briefly review the materials, and then the assistant will call you back to let you know if the Commissioner/Judge will grant a special set hearing.
  3. If the Commissioner/Judge’s assistant calls you back and says that the Commissioner/Judge is granting a special set hearing, you will likely need to go back to the courthouse and file a Notice of Hearing with the special set hearing date. When you are on the phone with the assistant, you should ask how the Commissioner/Judge would like to receive bench copies (copies of everything you filed). It’s possible the Commissioner/Judge won’t require any bench copies, but it is more likely the Commissioner/Judge will want the documents emailed or hand-delivered to him/her.
  4. You then need to serve the other party, or the other party’s attorney, with the Motion, Notice of Hearing, and supporting documents you filed at the courthouse.
  5. It is unknown at this time if the Commissioner/Judge is going to set hearings on the standard Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday court dates, or if the Judge is going to require strict adherence to the local rule procedures governing response deadlines. You should plan on giving the other party at least two weeks’ notice of the special set hearing, if possible, and anticipate receiving a response from the other party at least one week before the hearing. Your reply materials would then be due three days before the hearing. If all else fails and you are still confused about the deadlines, call the Commissioner/Judge’s assistant and ask. 
  6. At this time, all special set hearings will be occurring over the phone. Make sure the Commissioner/Judge’s assistant has your phone number, and make sure you are available to take their call at your assigned hearing time. If you miss the call, then the hearing will not take place, or if the other party set the hearing, the other party will get what they are requesting. In the hearing, you will get the chance to present your case, the other party will present their case, and both of you will answer any questions the Commissioner/Judge has. The Commissioner/Judge will issue their ruling, and likely order one of you to put together a proposed Order. The Commissioner/Judge may set another hearing to have the Order entered.
  7. Once the hearing is completed and an Order is entered, you follow the Order until there is another Order in place.

This is going to be a learning process for everyone, including attorneys and judicial officers. If you become confused, or can’t seem to figure out the process on your own or with the help of this blog, you should contact an attorney or at the very least call the Clerk’s Office and ask them. This blog will be updated as attorneys begin going through this process. If you have any questions please give us a call – there are multiple family law attorneys at Navigate Law Group willing to assist through this uncertain time.

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Disclaimer

Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue you should consult an attorney.