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How does COVID-19 impact deadlines to serve and respond to New York divorce papers
November 3, 2020

How does COVID-19 impact deadlines to serve and respond to New York divorce papers

On March 7, 2020 the Governor of the State of New York issued a state disaster emergency Order which basically suspended the rules of civil procedure to the extent of tolling certain deadlines. However, on October 5, 2020 the governor stated that as of November 4, 2020 all suspension of civil procedure deadlines would be lifted, and that compliance would be necessary. That means, if you were served with a divorce action, subpoena  or divorce motion, or if you must serve a divorce action, now is the time to attend to it. For more information contact us at www.nycdivorcelawyer.net. 

You might ask, how does Covid 19 and the subsequent emergency Governor’s orders affect your divorce case? 

It is important to follow the New York State  website www.nygov.com in order to learn more about how the state is dealing with divorce cases in New York. Because the situation of Covid 19 is very fluid, the rule of law changes almost on a weekly basis depending on the status of the pandemic.

For instance, if you were served with a Summons with Notice for an action for Divorce, or if you were served with a summons and verified complaint on April 1, 2020, then normally (pre-Covid 19) you would have had to file a Notice of Appearance or Verified Answer within twenty days.  

However, the Governor, recognizing the impediments and challenges that people faced during COVID-19, extended the times in which client had to file and serve legal documents. The statute of limitations was also tolled for other kinds of civil actions. Similarly, if you filed a summons with notice normally you would have 120 days to serve the summons with notice for divorce but because of the Governors order that time was extended and the Plaintiff had more time to serve it onto the other party. In fact, the time was extended indefinitely. That said, on October 5, 2020 the governor stated that the suspension would be lifted on November 3, 2020. That means that if you were served with anything, including a subpoena or a motion, now is  the time to attend to it.  You cannot delay responses to noticed pleadings or motions beyond November 3, 2020 and you should consult with an attorney to ascertain the actual deadlines for the filing or service of any divorce documents you might have concerns about as they are in a better position to ascertain the particular deadlines attributable to your case.

However, with winter coming, and with predictions of higher numbers of COVID-19 cases, the governor could issue new rules spending time deadlines for the filing of litigation in your divorce case so it is important that you check the New York government website to see and stay up-to-date on the governors executive orders.

Because the court system was on hold for an exceptionally long time, the courts are working hard to catch up. However, do not expect a trial date anytime soon. The courts are still struggling with handling backlog. If you have a deadline and you have missed that deadline be sure to contact the court or the other attorney and let them know that you need more time to answer.  In A NY divorce case, dates are important so do not ignore any legal paper that you are served with that requires you to respond by a date certain.  

To conclude, client compliance with court orders has been made very difficult during COVID-19 and the Governor of the State of New York has taken note of this in several of his executive orders. That is why it is important to stay abreast of the latest executive orders as said Orders may again in the future impact your New York divorce case.  There is no doubt that the winter will bring record cases of Covid-19 and unemployment rates will likely soar.  It was the high unemployment rates that caused such great financial difficulties that it interrupted the flow of cases now pending in Supreme Court as it prohibited many clients from complying with such court orders that may require them to pay for such things as forensic psychological experts, forensic expert accountant and real estate appraisers.  More urgently, the pandemic had a terrible effect on child support cases and child custody cases.  However, you can expect that pursuant to the Governor’s latest executive Order,  that after November 3, 2020 the courts will likely start requiring clients to comply more stringently with that expected of them under the New York Rules of Civil Procedure, at least as to extending time for clients to adhere to filing and service deadlines. 

 

Lisa Beth Older

Your Manhattan Divorce Lawyer