April 17, 2020

What do I do with the courts closed?

You have decided to separate. The courts are closed. Most law offices are closed. How to move my separation forward with the Covid restrictions. All of your options explained here.

How do I problem solve if I can’t go to court?

You have a lot of options and they are all usually cheaper than going to court. They are also just as effective and allow you more decision-making power in coming to a solution. Your options are:

  • Negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Collaborative Family Law
  • Arbitration

All of these options can be done remotely through telephone or video conferencing.

What is negotiation?

You can hire a lawyer to negotiate the terms of a temporary agreement during the current shutdown or a final agreement for all issues related to your separation or divorce. In negotiation, the goal is to reach a mutually acceptable agreement without the cost of court. You do not have to physically go to your lawyer’s office – you can telephone or video conference. You don’t even have to hire a lawyer for full representation, you can hire them on an un-bundled basis (think: piece-work) to do as much or as little as you need. This can all be done easily over the phone and the internet.

What is mediation?

You, your spouse and a mediator meet to resolve your separation. You can be represented by a lawyer but you do not have to be. Mediation allows you to take control of your own issues and to participate in designing workable outcomes in a neutral setting. Mediation offers a low-cost resolution to your case with the satisfaction that you have a voice in your own destiny. Mediation is often fast, too. It can now be done by video conference, so you can respect social distancing and even isolating needs and still move these issues ahead.

A settlement may be reached in a two or three hour session. Both yourself and your spouse need to contact the mediator, and you would each need own lawyer for legal advice at the end. Swarbrick Law offers remote mediation as do many other mediators.

What is Collaborative Family Law?

Similar to mediation, Collaborative Family Law assumes that you participate in achieving a resolution to your dispute. However, Collaborative Family Law goes beyond mediation, by creating a contract which sets out the terms of how the dispute will be negotiated. This ensures that negotiations are handled in a safe, formal, civil, and respectful manner. It guarantees the lawyers cannot go to court – they are only hired to help you get a settlement done. It’s fully private whereas court is not. This can now be done by video conference.


The Collaborative Family Law process involves three key components; a pledge not to go to court; an honest exchange of information; and a promise to take into account both parents and their children. Swarbrick Law offers Collaborative Family Law. It does not suit to un-bundled services, but it is an option to be aware of.

How do I get into court right now?

It is unlikely you will be able to get into court right now. Unless your matter is urgent, you should not [and currently cannot] be bringing anything in court. There is also an option to bring a matter if both parties agree to all terms – it’s called a consent.

They may hear urgent matters and some limited family matters. You have to take steps to resolve your matter outside of court.

If you have not already begun litigation, then you will only be able to bring an urgent motion. You can get help on an emergency basis to see if your case is an emergency for FREE. The Law Society has a number you can call to speak to a lawyer to see if your case would likely be an emergency to give you permission to go ahead to court. The number is 1-800-268-7568.


How do I know if my issue is urgent?

Courts typically hear matters about safety and dire financial circumstances on an urgent basis. If you are concerned about an increased risk of COVID-19 because the other parent works in healthcare, that is not urgent or a reason to deny access. Your child is entitled to see both parents.

If you or your children have health conditions, then you must provide evidence that the other parent is not following COVID-19 protocols. You will also need evidence from a medical professional of the health condition and the higher risk to you or the children because of COVID-19.

Examples of urgent issues are:

  • Parent’s workplace is not following COVID-19 protocols
  • Serious health problems
  • One of the parents is a drug user
  • Serious mental health concerns
  • Domestic abuse
  • Dire financial circumstances

How do I get help?

To determine whether your matter is urgent and your options for other legal services, click Book a Consult and talk to us.

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