Modern Family Matters

Alternative Options for Pursuing Your Family Law Case During COVID-19

May 26, 2020 with Landerholm Family Law Season 1 Episode 2
Modern Family Matters
Alternative Options for Pursuing Your Family Law Case During COVID-19
Chapters
Modern Family Matters
Alternative Options for Pursuing Your Family Law Case During COVID-19
May 26, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2
with Landerholm Family Law
  • Lewis Landerholm, Founding Attorney of Landerholm Family Law, discusses the various options available to those who would like to pursue their family law case in spite of court delays due to Covid-19.
  • It’s projected that there's going to be a large wave of cases coming through in the next few months when everybody does decide to file, so getting your place in line and starting the process now is important.
  • While the courts are trying to navigate the pandemic with the State’s mandates and restrictions, they are eager to get things moving and provide alternative options so that people can move their cases forward.
  • There are outside and remote options available to those who want to move forward with their family law case but may not be able to get a court hearing. The courts are going to be putting pressure on attorneys and parties to use these outside options, such as utilizing reference judges, judicial settlement conferences, mediation, and remote hearings. 
  • Other industry professionals and services, such as therapists, arbitrators, supervised visitation, appraisers, house-movers, mediators, financial and tax planners, etc. are available at remote capacities. We have referral sources that we are happy to connect you with if needed. 
  • Coming up with creative options, being as agreeable as possible, and clients being willing to communicate with their opposing party to agree on alternative options, are going to be key in moving cases moving forward so that clients can get what they want without bogging down the system. 
  • In the event of an emergency and immediate court intervention, a client can still obtain a restraining order, and in extreme circumstances, an immediate danger order. If there is threat of a child being removed from their regular routine, status quo orders can still be entered in place.
  • The sudden and forced shift to go remote has helped to shake the old school mentality of “this is the way it has to go”. The courts, attorneys, and other professionals in the family law industry are rewriting how it has to go now, and there will be positive changes that will come out of this in the long run.
  • When you decide that it’s the right time to move forward with your family law case, we can help you. We're prepared to help you embrace all of these new, alternative tools that we have and try to solve the problem as efficiently and appropriately as we can. You can contact our office at (503) 227-0200.


Show Notes Transcript
  • Lewis Landerholm, Founding Attorney of Landerholm Family Law, discusses the various options available to those who would like to pursue their family law case in spite of court delays due to Covid-19.
  • It’s projected that there's going to be a large wave of cases coming through in the next few months when everybody does decide to file, so getting your place in line and starting the process now is important.
  • While the courts are trying to navigate the pandemic with the State’s mandates and restrictions, they are eager to get things moving and provide alternative options so that people can move their cases forward.
  • There are outside and remote options available to those who want to move forward with their family law case but may not be able to get a court hearing. The courts are going to be putting pressure on attorneys and parties to use these outside options, such as utilizing reference judges, judicial settlement conferences, mediation, and remote hearings. 
  • Other industry professionals and services, such as therapists, arbitrators, supervised visitation, appraisers, house-movers, mediators, financial and tax planners, etc. are available at remote capacities. We have referral sources that we are happy to connect you with if needed. 
  • Coming up with creative options, being as agreeable as possible, and clients being willing to communicate with their opposing party to agree on alternative options, are going to be key in moving cases moving forward so that clients can get what they want without bogging down the system. 
  • In the event of an emergency and immediate court intervention, a client can still obtain a restraining order, and in extreme circumstances, an immediate danger order. If there is threat of a child being removed from their regular routine, status quo orders can still be entered in place.
  • The sudden and forced shift to go remote has helped to shake the old school mentality of “this is the way it has to go”. The courts, attorneys, and other professionals in the family law industry are rewriting how it has to go now, and there will be positive changes that will come out of this in the long run.
  • When you decide that it’s the right time to move forward with your family law case, we can help you. We're prepared to help you embrace all of these new, alternative tools that we have and try to solve the problem as efficiently and appropriately as we can. You can contact our office at (503) 227-0200.


Intro: 

Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast hosted by Steve Altishin, our Director of Client Partnerships here at Landerholm Family Law. We are devoted to exploring topics within the realm of family law that matter most to you. Our discussions will cover a wide range of both legal and personal issues that accompany family law matters. We strongly believe that life events such as marriages, divorces, re-marriages, births, adoptions, children, growing up, growing older, illnesses and deaths do not dissolve a family. Rather, they provide the opportunity to reconfigure and strengthened family dynamics in healthy and positive ways. With expertise from qualified attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcasts will help provide answers, clarity, and guidance for the better tomorrow for you and your family. Without further ado, your host, Steve Altishin

Steve Altishin (01:11):

Welcome everyone to our Facebook live broadcast. My name is Steve Altishin, director of client partnerships here at Landerholm Family Law, and I'm here with Lewis Landerholm. Lewis is the founding partner of Landerholm Family Law and is here today with me to talk about moving your case forward in today's environment.

Before we start. I want to encourage anyone listening to this live broadcast to submit any questions you have and we'll try our best to answer them at the end of the broadcast. Additionally, if you're interested in learning more about family law topics, we've started a podcast called modern family matters. These podcasts will cover a range of topics, such as divorce, and custody, adoption, and estate planning. You can get updates about new episodes on our Facebook page, Instagram and the Apple store. 

 

So Lewis, I see this question all the time: what's the use of filing for divorce now, or a custody change or an enforcement of a judgment? I mean, the courts are closed. It won't go anywhere. How do we answer that?

Lewis Landerholm (02:11):

Well, I think that's a good question, Steve, just from the standpoint that we don't know that much, and the state just came out with some new, less restrictive measures in some of the counties. So yeah, we're kind of waiting to see right now. Also, what we have seen up to this point is that the courts really do want to get started moving with certain cases and certain hearings.

Initially, when all of this came to pass, we saw all of our hearings that were scheduled from about mid-March through June get rescheduled and pushed out. And we're still waiting on some of those dates, but the word on the street is that we are going to see some of our family law cases getting prioritized behind say, criminal law and some of the more emergency type orders.

So while the courts are trying to navigate this with the States mandates and the States restrictions, they do want to get things moving so that we can actually help people move their cases forward.

Steve Altishin (03:18):

It seems to me that this is an opportunity now to really think about moving forward, and kind of get in the front of the line. What I see around is that there are attorneys and people that are reluctant to use the new system. They either don't have the technology, or they aren’t up with the court rules. And so they're still in the mindset of, “well, let's just wait until trials start”, and that could be a year from now. So I really like the idea of trying to move forward, and being innovative. And so how can we do that? How can we use what we've got in technology and how we've got ourselves set up to work with the court system with petitioning, filing motions, doing modifications, doing enforcement decrease? Can we still do all those things now?

Lewis Landerholm (04:10):

Yeah. I think trials where we need evidence and where we need witnesses are going to be the most difficult for the courts to figure out. I know other States have been trying, Michigan, Florida have been doing, and I know that Oregon has been doing some of them too, where they are trying to do remote hearings. The challenge is trying to deal with the difficulties of evidentiary issues, and witness testimony. And so I think what we're going to see is, well, our goal is to move our cases and move our client's cases along as efficiently as possible. So we're definitely going to embrace all of the technological advantages to do that. We will get into court as quickly as we can.

I think the courts are doing things that are a little creative as well. There are, outside of just the court options, options that we use all the time, even outside of this time, which would be, if we don't want to wait for a judge, which right now we're anticipating the wait time to be, like you said, a year. So I could see using judicial settlement conferences a lot more. Judicial settlement conferences, for those of you who don't know, are when we go to a different judge than we were assigned to, to actually talk to them about the case, give them the facts. And then that other judge can make recommendations or try to settle the case. The other options that we use all the time are attorney assisted mediation, where we will hire a retired judge typically to come in and help us work on the impasse and work on coming up with an agreement for clients so that we can move their case along.

There's even going to be more use of a reference judge. And a reference judge is essentially a judge for hire--kind of like an arbitrator would be-- somebody who we take our case to. And we submit to allowing them to make a ruling in the case so that we don't have to wait a year. We don't have to wait 14 months. So there are a lot of options out there and they're just going to become more prevalent as the court system gets even more contentious and backed up.

Steve Altishin (06:18):

Wow, the court system could get more contentious though. That'll be something, right? One thing you mentioned, what I've noticed, and what's great is that we've got remote mediators that we can refer clients out to, that we can work with. We've got several. So they're ready to go. Remote arbitrators, same thing, remote reference judges, all of these kinds of services can all be done remotely.

We don't have to worry about any of that problem. So they're not backlogged and we can get to them and kind of move our case forward because they've all set up remotely. They all can do video. Even on the arbitrary, they can take video evidence. The mediators are set up to talk with lawyers and the clients and it just seems like a great way to move forward. Even if the court system itself is clogged up.

Lewis Landerholm (07:18):

Yeah. I think the key for all of us is we want to be reasonable with the other party and try to maintain a sense of, especially when kids are involved, you know, we don't want these things dragging on for years or for months, if we can possibly do that. So getting creative, coming up with creative options, being as agreeable as possible are going to keep our cases moving forward and so that we can get clients to help that they want without it taking forever and bogging down in the system.

Steve, I know that you talked to a lot of our referral partners that we work with. You talked about experts and valuations and appraisals for homes. Are they doing the same thing? Are they able to work remotely and get all of those services done that are required?

Steve Altishin (08:09):

Absolutely. I was talking with an appraiser this afternoon, before we came on today. He is completely set up for remote work. He's a divorce specialist and he can not only remotely work with a client to gather the information, but then to also analyze it. Analyze it with not just the client, but with you, the attorney. So he'll set up a meeting with you and the client and he'll be able to gather a lot of information. So much of it now is able to be gathered remotely. He can evaluate it. You can get everybody online, he can get it all done and get it pushed forward.

It's the same thing with therapists. Therapists all over in all of the counties now are set up to do remote work. Child therapists, couples therapists, supervised visitation can be done remotely, which is really interesting. There are several other kinds of things that can be done remotely. Obviously all the filing can be done remotely. All the documents that need to be signed can be signed remotely. The services out there, I think because a lot of those services were traditionally moving to remote anyway, are up and ready to go. And we've got lists of virtually every type of service and not just the financial. We have house movers who are in that field of being able to really do everything in a remote setting. I mean, they can help people move and do it right now with all the protocols in mind. So we've got service people all over the place and they're up and ready to go.

And they're just waiting to get people ready and willing to say, "look, it's been a bad enough time. I want to move forward now. And I want to use the technology, all this new stuff".

Lewis Landerholm (10:18):

Yeah. I mean, totally. It makes sense. That's what we all have to do. It is what it is. And we just have to get creative and come up with creative solutions to all of the problems. And we're going to do the same thing from a legal perspective and a law firm perspective so that we can keep being able to serve the clients that we have and new clients that need the help so that it doesn't just bog down and just linger forever.

Steve Altishin (10:41):

It was interesting. One of the things you talked about, which I think is so vital is that this time, because there's a limited amount of ways you can make these things happen, people have to be more willing talk to each other, but it doesn't mean they have to settle the actual case. That's where you help. But people have to be willing to say, "okay, I don't want to talk to my spouse, but I will. I have to be able to move past that for the betterment, not only of our kids maybe, but to get the thing done." If people dig in their heels and say, you know, "I don't want to use this stuff", it isn't going to get done.

Lewis Landerholm (11:26):

Yeah. Like we talked about, it's just going to take a lot longer than it normally would. So the more that we can all work together and come up with solutions, it's going to make everybody feel happier about the process. Because it's not a fun process to begin with.

Steve Altishin (11:42):

No, it's not. You talked about the kind of alternative. Let's say the court is bogged down. Are there other ways you can deal with really minimal involvement with the court? Sort of alternative ways you can get some of these things processed and done?

Lewis Landerholm (12:00):

Yeah. I mean, even before all of this and the normal course of business, we always were settling cases outside of court. I don't know what the actual statistics are, but my guess is it's 98% of cases are settled outside of court. What this is going to do, it's just going to make that number go up even higher. There's going to be fewer access to judges, fewer court resources. And so the courts are going to be putting pressure to use these outside options, like the reference judges, like the judicial settlement conferences, like mediation. So those are all the normal things that we've always used, we're going to be using those in a much higher percentage of cases. 

And so we're going to be, from the very beginning, talking to clients about: how do we want to get to the end as opposed to what's going to happen at the end? Because now the process and the "how" is going to be much more important and at the forefront of everybody's minds when they first start. So we'll be problem solving that right out of the gate. 

Court is just not going to be as big of an option as it used to be. We'll still be able to use court for the immediate danger filings, you know, any of our emergency enforcement orders. Those things will still be able to move through, but the cases that are the normal course, you know, especially for support purposes, when somebody doesn't have money and they need support during the middle of the case, those we have to get filed ASAP and try to come up with a different way to get those numbers figured out. Because there's going to be a lot of people who get cut off and, especially with all of this, it's going to be extremely difficult.

Steve Altishin (13:52):

You talked about reference judges as potential alternatives. They can be a real help when you talk about kind of circumventing the traditional court process. I mean, don't they pretty much have the power to do whatever they want in terms of getting it settled where potentially, since you can't go into a courthouse, maybe to a trial, but you can use a reference judge? If you really need to get your divorce done, that may be a way to go.

Lewis Landerholm (14:28):

Yeah. Essentially they give us the option of having, say, when we have impasse: when we can't reach an agreement and it's a stepped up level from mediation, essentially where the parties delegate the authority to this judge to then make a ruling in the case. So that is an option that wasn't used as frequently before. But I think it's going to be much more common over the next, especially couple of years, until we get back into kind of the normal cycle of cases.

Steve Altishin (15:02):

So can you think of any specific areas of family law that are more, maybe, important to not delay? Because we hear that domestic violence is going up with people at home and a lot of people out there thinking "I just have to wait it out." What would you tell someone who's got a bad situation at home right now thinking there is no court solution?

Lewis Landerholm (15:33):

Well, obviously it depends on the facts and it depends on what's available. Just from a family law perspective, there are certain options. Restraining orders are still moving forward. The FAPA's, the family abuse prevention act restraining orders, those are continuing to be prioritized. Those have continued to move forward. So in the event that that is something that is necessary and required, that's still available. As far as emergency orders, like I mentioned, the immediate danger order as well, there’s a high bar for being able to get that order. But in those extreme circumstances, we'll still be able to get court time. Outside of that, I've talked to a lot of clients where one spouse, soon to be ex-spouse, is losing their job, and so they're contemplating moving. Well we can still get those status quos entered in place to slow everything down and to keep Oregon as the home state for the kids and for the parties so that things don't change more rapidly than somebody would want to change. So those are all still available and moving forward. And those are the really immediate things that are helpful. 

The other piece that I think is going to be important moving forward is the temporary hearings. A lot of times when something's been going on, say a couple has been separated for a year or so, and they've been going along and one party hasn't been getting as much parenting time and they want to change that or they need to get child support or spousal support, well, we need to file for a temporary hearing that then gives us those support orders and we can then change the parenting time. Well, typically that's a two to three months process to get a date on the calendar and to be able to move forward. Now, we don't know how long that's going to take, and that's really vital for a lot of people. And so coming up with solutions, and really embracing the technology, for those particular hearings is going to be extremely important so that we can get that relief for those clients.

Steve Altishin (17:40):

My understanding is that the courts are really also wanting to get this pushed forward and they are literally bending over backwards to try to get the attorneys to embrace just what we're embracing, which is these new technologies, these new video hearings. They’re offering to move people's cases up if they're willing to do a remote hearing and if so, they're willing to move some of their cases up. But what I understand is that it takes two to tango on this. There's always two parties and both parties need to say, "okay, yeah, we agree to this and we're going to do it this way". It seems like, again, that goes back to cooperation. You're not necessarily settling the final matter, but you're getting a push forward.

Lewis Landerholm (18:36):

Yeah. It's going to be, not just from the client perspective and the party's perspective, important for us professionals in the industry. Attorneys need to work together on how to problem solve ourselves so that we can use everything at our disposal to help move cases forward. We don't need to become part of the problem and cause issues. It's 2020, we can figure these things out.

We can figure out how to deal with evidence. We can figure out how to deal with remote hearings. We've got the technology, the courts have the technology and you know, there's going to be the majority of us who are going to work in that environment. And yeah, it's a little bit of a change but it could be great in the long run. And it could be that we're able to fast track a lot of these things because we're going to learn so much from using these alternative tools. 

So, in the long run, I think it's going to give the courts a huge advantage, hopefully, to be able to use their limited court resources and spread it amongst more people so that we can do things faster. But you know, those are all the things that we'll just have to wait and see. There are so many unknowns at this point.

Steve Altishin (19:53):

It seems like the old adage of “a journey of a thousand miles has to start with the first step”. And part of our job is going to be to relay and maybe convince people that they shouldn't wait. All of these great things that you talked about, all of these ways and strategies to move forward don't go anywhere until someone decides, "Yeah, I don't like the situation I'm in. I need to get out of it. I need to change it. Well, I have to start by actually doing it." You have to make that first step so that you can start to embrace all these opportunities.

Lewis Landerholm (20:33):

Yeah. And that's not unique to this time, you know what I mean? That’s always been something people have to decide for themselves. I always tell people, the part of the process that I don't advise on is the "when". I don't tell you when the time is to forward with something. 

Rather, when you decide that you need to move forward with something, we can help you, and we're going to help you embrace all of these tools that we have and try to solve the problem as efficiently and appropriately as we can. So none of that is new by any means, but it's definitely heightened. 

And I think uncertainty always causes people to worry and to not want to start to move forward in certain processes, which I completely understand. But the reality is that as we project that there's going to be a large wave of cases coming through in the next few months when everybody does decide to file, kind of getting your place in line becomes important. And just filing to get those dates, as they start to come out, is going to be important for people who do want their case to move forward.

And then we get into all of the other options to do it even faster. But yeah, it's an interesting time from a legal process perspective, but it's one that I think we're all going to deal with and we're all going to solve the right way.

Steve Altishin (21:56):

Well, like I said, it's something that we're evolving on. It's just part of what we're actually getting used to now. We're getting used to having to make some changes and a lot of the changes, as you said, we're learning as we go and we're learning a lot of new stuff. So, how do you think that this is going to work for the ultimate way that family law cases are handled, let's say one, five, 10 years from now?

Lewis Landerholm (22:27):

Well, I think that's an interesting question, and I think the legal system in general is slow to change, but this has brought upon an enormously quick, forced change. And I think we're just going to get better with technology and we're going to be able to move some of these hearings, which can then fast track the hearings so that we don't have to wait so long. I think this will help to kind of get out of the old school mentality to a certain extent that is, "this is the way it has to go". We're rewriting how it has to go now, and I think there are going to be a lot of positive things that come out of it in the long run.

Steve Altishin (23:06):

That's great. You know, sometimes terrible things can cause great things to happen. It's the way mankind has gone. So, it's been a great talk. Anything else you'd like to say at the end about someone out there who's listening and is thinking, "should I think about pulling the trigger? I mean, how should I get started?" How would they get started if they decided that, yeah, it is the time?

Lewis Landerholm (23:33):

I think the most important thing is to first be able to ask the questions and find out what it means if you do move forward. One of the things we did right off the bat is we reduced our consultation fee to free.

We didn't want somebody who did have questions to have any barriers, and to be able to find out some answers. It doesn't mean we answer every single inquiry, we don't have enough time to answer every single question. But it gives us the opportunity to talk to people about what it does mean, what it would look like, the process, how do we move forward. So, yeah, that's a great way to take advantage of our free consultation if you have those questions. Otherwise, there are resources out there online and with the courts as well.

Steve Altishin: (24:20):

Well, I love it. I think this is great. I think this is a lot of information. And again, if anyone has any questions or would like to get some more information, have them give us a call, would you give them some information on how to do that?

Lewis Landerholm (24:38):

Yeah, they can call our number at (503) 227-0200. That's probably the easiest way because then you'll get routed to the right person. Or you could email Steve, his email is steve@landerholmlaw.com, and he can get you pointed in the right direction as well. Whatever's easiest for you.

Steve Altishin (25:02):

That sounds good. And with that, I would also stress one thing we're doing: even if you're not ready to go to court, but you have some service you need, again, there's family therapy, there's financial planning, there's tax planning, there's moving, there's rental, maybe you have to move out. Issues that aren't yet ready for divorce that we can help with: you can call in. One of the things we've done in the last three months is get a brand new field of experts who are all set up now remotely to go. So that's a great thing. I'm going to wrap up the broadcast and if you've enjoyed it, that's great. We're going to do some more. We're going to try to do them on a bimonthly basis. We're going to try to do them about more timely issues. In this world right now, the concept of timeliness is so fluid a concept now that we need really need to, again, keep ahead of the curve. 

So please keep an eye out for these broadcasts. If you have a family law topic you'd like us to explore, please feel free to send us a suggestion. Again, my name is Steve, and my email is steve@landerholmlaw.com. You can send suggestions to me or put them on Facebook. 

Also, don't forget to follow our new broadcast modern family matters. We're going to be launching it next week, and it's aimed at addressing the myriad of real-life issues: legal, personal, financial, that touch and effect real families and real lives. So, as a reminder, really want to thank you again. Thanks for listening. This was our first one. We're going to do a bunch more. So stay well.

Steve Altishin (26:44):

Thank you, Lewis.

Lewis Landerholm (26:45):

Thanks Steve.

Outro (26:49):

You're listening to Modern Family Matters a legal podcast, focusing on providing real answers and direction for individuals and families as they navigate the growths, changes, and challenges of creating their new family dynamics. Modern Family Matters is sponsored by Landerholm Family Law, serving Oregon and the Pacific Northwest and devoted to providing clients with compassionate and fierce legal advocacy with a firm belief in the importance of upholding the family unit amidst complex transitions. If you are in need of legal counsel or have additional questions about a family law matter important to you, you can visit our Landerholm Family website www.landerholmfamilylaw.com, or call us at (503) 227-0200 to schedule a case evaluation with one of our seasoned attorneys. Modern Family Matters, advocating for your better tomorrow and offering solutions on legal matters, important to the modern family.