RI Family Court has begun virtual hearings for non-emergency/non-essential cases. Should I file my uncontested divorce now or wait?
June 15, 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic had widespread repercussions, including the suspension of the Rhode Island Family Courts daily court calendars and appointments other than hearing emergency matters. Emergency/essential matters in the family court were essentially limited to restraining order hearings, emergency motions, ex parte motions, probable cause hearings and drug screening appointments.
It was not until June 8, 2020 that a comprehensive system was in place whereby family court judges could regularly conduct pretrial conferences and address other non-emergency/ non-essential matters via the Webex virtual meeting platform. However, people were concerned about making filings during the shutdown of the court's normal calendar due to the case backlog that the pandemic was likely to cause on the family court's system. People who called me with uncontested divorces and other non-emergency/nonessential matters during the courts "shut down" period were most concerned about whether it was worthwhile to file their action because might be months before they would ever be heard.
The public's concern about the case backlog and whether to file continues to be an issue for today's filings. So the question remains, if you have an uncontested divorce matter (0r other non-emergency matter) should you file it now or wait for the case backlog to be addressed.
If you want to make the filing, it's best to make is sooner rather than later. Realistically, there is and will be a backlog until the court is able to address it. This may be months or even years from now. Unless a lawyer who has been advised of all your circumstances advises you to wait because of your factual circumstances or to properly position yourself for the divorce (or other nonessential matter) then waiting does not help you. Waiting to file your case without a specific benefit to you does not make sense. Practically speaking, the sooner you get yourself in the court's schedule the sooner you will be heard. By waiting you are merely allowing those who are ready and willing to file will only put you in line behind those people and delay your matter from being heard by the court.
With that said, keep in mind that every case is fact specific and relates to both circumstances of your case as well as your life. There may well be instances when you would not want to file but that is best left for a competent Rhode Island family law attorney to advise you about after he or she has been fully advised of your circumstances.