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167 - Are the Courts Open in a Pandemic?

167 - Are the Courts Open in a Pandemic? Image

04/17/2020 2:00 pm

Some Courthouses appear closed. Others appear to be operating on a limited basis. Are they actually open in the middle of this pandemic? In this show Leh and Todd discuss how they are open, but not in the traditional sense. Many cases are still moving forward, and some Judges are actually having trials. Tune in to learn how.


Leh Meriwether: Episode 167, are the courts open in a pandemic?

Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I am Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston, your hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a podcast sponsored by the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. Here you will learn about divorce, family law, and from time to time, even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis.

Leh Meriwether: Well, if you didn't notice from the way we started this, we are doing this show in a completely different format. Man, Todd, how things have changed in three weeks.

Todd Orston: It's surreal. I know it's changed our business, it's changed family life, it's changed things in ways, to be honest, I don't think any of us ... I can speak for myself, none of my family members could have imagined the changes that we're experiencing right now, school being basically out for the year and the virtual learning, the impact on the courts systems. I mean, it's incredible. Not in a great way but it's something I never even thought I would see in my lifetime.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. You know, it's funny because three weeks ago we were in studio ... By the way, if you haven't been able to tell, we are actually not in studio. We are exercising, I like to call it, physical distancing. Todd's in his home and I'm in my home and we are recording this podcast thanks to some wonderful technology because we couldn't go in studio to record the show.

Leh Meriwether: It's not being ... For a short period, at least, we are not publishing this on the radio show. We're going strictly to podcast format. You'll notice things differently. You won't hear us go to commercial break and that sort of thing. It's just going to be a straight podcast all the way through, which will be nice. It'll be a nice change.

Leh Meriwether: You know, three weeks ago we were talking about, "Well, the courts might shut down and here are some things you should be thinking about." The irony is when we were recording that an email came in, obviously, we weren't checking our email during the show but an email came in from the federal district up here in Georgia, the northern district, that said that they were going to be handling all hearings by telephone or Zoom calls. It already started while we were recording that the courts were changing.

Todd Orston: Yeah.

Leh Meriwether: It was incredible.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Since that time, basically, we have gotten orders from here in Georgia, the governor. We have gotten orders from individual courts explaining what the new processes and procedures are. Again, it's a brand new world. It's a brand new world for the people who have cases being filed or that are filed and for the attorneys and for the judges even but I will say one thing, anyone listening, understand the courts are open. That is going to be the topic of discussion but I [crosstalk 00:03:11].

Leh Meriwether: I though we were going to save that until the end.

Todd Orston: Not a very helpful podcast if the main point doesn't get brought up until we're like, "All right. Thanks for listening, oh, and by the way, forgot to tell you ..." [crosstalk 00:03:26].

Todd Orston: No, but the courts are open. It's different but they are open. The judges are working. Okay? Access is going to be different but do not think that courts are shut down. Again, we're going to go into a lot more of that during our show. [crosstalk 00:03:44]. Right.

Leh Meriwether: It's probably safe to say, don't assume they're shut down.

Todd Orston: Correct.

Leh Meriwether: Because there may be areas ... Like I have no idea up in New York. I didn't check up there but they're getting hit the hardest by this pandemic and there may be some judges that are still open. I mean, you're hearing about orders and things like that. I would imagine they are.

Leh Meriwether: I mean, of all times for a pandemic to hit this seems like ... Not that we would ever want it to hit but the technology is there so that we as a law firm, the courts, even our government had been able to shift to do video conferencing. How amazing is that?

Todd Orston: It is amazing. You know what? Here's a concern that I have. I don't know if you saw the news recently. There was something where they were talking about schools are temporarily stopping the use of Zoom and, again, it's a fantastic tool but due to concerns of hacking and I guess people potentially being able to hack into the classroom setting and take over the virtual learning through Zoom. Again, don't know if it's real or whatever but if that's a concern for schools I have to believe that it's going to be a concern for the legal community because [crosstalk 00:05:04].

Leh Meriwether: I would imagine as much press, free press, that Zoom's getting right now that they're going to make some changes really fast.

Todd Orston: I have no doubt. Again, this is a continuously evolving situation. Again, like you were saying before, three weeks ago or so a much different world. Everything was, for lack of a better way of putting it, normal and we were going about our business in that normal fashion. Here we are, a few weeks later and it's a completely different system and set of rules that we have to work by. That may still change [crosstalk 00:05:42]. Yeah, I'm sure Zoom will fix whatever needs to be fixed but the point is today it's Zoom, tomorrow it could be something else.

Leh Meriwether: We could go back to Skype [crosstalk 00:05:55]. I guess my point was there are so many tools out there that didn't exist even five, 10 years ago that we have today that make this podcast possible, that makes school, because you can do digital learning now ... I mean, obviously, we're still in an adjustment period because the teachers weren't ready for that, I mean, except for the home school classes, but they've been making adjustments. Our kids have been making adjustments. It's been great.

Leh Meriwether: The only sad part of it is I know that there are school districts where the parents, especially with everything happening, may not have the money to keep their internet up. Hopefully, they're getting help. I know that there's different organizations, civic organizations, governments, churches even that are chipping in to help pay these bills so that the kids can keep learning.

Leh Meriwether: We're kind of getting off subject. Partly my fault.

Todd Orston: Absolutely your fault.

Leh Meriwether: Let's get back to ... Well, let's get back to what we were talking about ... Let me take one step back. The reason we didn't jump in and start doing podcasts, again, because so much was happening so fast. I mean, we got an order from the Georgia Supreme Court to start changing things and then maybe it was 12 hours later and we got an amendment to that order and then within a week there was another amendment to that order and then all of a sudden all of the local chief judges ... In each county in Georgia and I think it's similar around the country so you have circuits and they have different names.

Leh Meriwether: But you have groups of either they are by county or a series of county depending on the population where judges cover either a county or a circuit of cases. Every state handles it a little bit differently but you usually have a chief judge who is the one who puts together orders and tries to organize things.

Leh Meriwether: All the chief judges in all the counties suddenly started issuing orders changing how they were doing things. Even that was constantly evolving. At first, you could still go into the clerk's office and then within a week or two they changed it where they were shutting down the clerk's offices, you couldn't come in there, but thankfully you could file everything ...

Leh Meriwether: Well, as far as I know, at least in family law, we'll stick that because that's what we've been paying attention to. You could file things online and I'm guessing they're making it easier for pro se litigants to setup accounts now because before, often, you would go into the courthouse and they would have a scanner there and you'd scan it and then they would file it.

Leh Meriwether: Everything was evolving so fast that we didn't want to ... I'm sure we said some things that sounded kind of weird now in hindsight. I haven't gone back and listened to the last episode but things just are constantly evolving.

Leh Meriwether: We wanted to sort of talk about ... First, answer the question, are the courts open in a pandemic? Yes. Then talk about how do you navigate all of the orders that are constantly coming out? How do you get through this?

Todd Orston: Yeah. It's not a matter of are the courts open? That answer is an easy one. The courts, for the most part, and, again, like you had said earlier, I don't know about every single jurisdiction and we're going to talk briefly about steps you can take to figure out whether the court in your jurisdiction is open.

Todd Orston: It's really more an issue of access. That is what's becoming more challenging, it's becoming more challenging for attorneys, and absolutely for pro se litigants. Are the judges there? Are they working? Meaning, are they actually still handling their case load and having hearings and doing other things?

Todd Orston: For the most part, at least in the metro Atlanta area, the answer is yes, they are but the access is much difference. Where once you could just walk into a courthouse that's not possible anymore. You know, the access to the judge is not an issue of walking and going to the clerk, filing something and at some point going into the courthouse, walking up to a courtroom and having a hearing.

Todd Orston: At this point, a lot of the judges, if not all of them at this point, are doing telephonic or video-based hearings. You need to understand what that process is. To your point, also, that's why it has taken some time because the processes have been evolving very quickly.

Todd Orston: There are orders coming from the governor of Georgia and those orders have evolved very quickly. We got one order where it had the stay-at-home order and it set forth some exceptions. Well, one exception that was not included had to do with custody exchanges and then all of the family lawyers were sitting here going, "Well, hold on one second. Does that mean that people can't travel to effectuate custody changes?" We're sitting there figuring out, "Oh, well, what argument can we ..."

Todd Orston: Then, boom, another order comes out where it mentions it. It evolved very quickly and I anticipate as we keep going things ... I would like to believe things are going to go back to normal but I think it's going to be a different kind of normal. I think things will continue to evolve until we get to something that is good long-term but you need to stay educated and you can't just assume you understand how the process works because we do this for a living day in, day out and we're still wrapping our arms and head and everything, our minds, around what the new process is so that we do things correctly.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. As soon as all this hit, there was pauses on some cases as the courts and the judges tried to figure out the new normal and how were they going to keep cases moving forward during this time period. I know that there are cases where there needs resolution. There are family violence cases, that sort of thing. We talked about that in the last one. There are certain criminal matters where you can't just let someone, that they're entitled to a bond hearing [crosstalk 00:12:05].

Todd Orston: They're not going to be languishing in jail simply because the judges are on hiatus due to COVID-19, right?

Leh Meriwether: Right. Then some we've got multiple orders from each county. As things evolved, they kept changing. Even some judges, interestingly enough, would post to Facebook, "Hey ..." Not that the judges are friends with all these other lawyers but they may have had a judicial campaign that lawyers had liked at some point. They would post to that Facebook page saying, "Hey, if you got these kind of family law matters to my family law attorneys and you need my help here's how to schedule a telephonic or a video hearing."

Leh Meriwether: The judges were using all kinds of digital communication to relay how to work with in the court system and within this new normal. Kudos to those judges that have worked hard to change things so that the cases didn't come to a complete screeching halt.

Leh Meriwether: I did hear ... Maybe this was a rumor. I don't know. I did hear from a co-parenting coordinator there was an issue where someone was being denied visitation because of the COVID-19 and they filed a contempt and the judge basically said, again, I don't know if this is true, "But I'm not hearing any contempts right now" which I think is ... I don't agree with that because I know a lot of judges that are doing everything they can to accommodate situations.

Leh Meriwether: Obviously, as they're adjusting to the new normal they've got to ...

Todd Orston: Evolve.

Leh Meriwether: It takes time.

Todd Orston: They're going to have to evolve themselves. They have to evolve their rationale. Under normal circumstances, somebody withholds visitation, parenting time, it's easy, right? There's an order. It says, parent B gets X amount of days on these specific days and if parent A withholds that, it's a pretty easy contempt. All right? You are in violation ... Absent a really good reason then, bottom line, it's an easy contempt.

Todd Orston: I can actually understand ... I'm not saying it's correct but I can understand the position judges are in. Is a judge going to hear a contempt right now and immediately say it's an unreasonable position to take that you're not going to allow the other parent to exercise parenting time because of your COVID-19 fears and then the judge jumps in and says, "You're in contempt", forces the parenting time, and the child comes down with COVID-19?

Todd Orston: I can understand that trepidation, that reluctance to jump in yet but it's coming. We're going to do a whole other show on some of these custody issues. A sneak peek is me just saying, just remember anything and everything you do right now could have consequences later.

Leh Meriwether: Yup. We'll get into that in another show but we wanted to come out now just so if people were concerned or, hey, don't bury your head in the sand. If you have an existing ... Two things. If you have an existing case, don't just suddenly assume nothing is going to happen. In fact, you need to be extra diligent to check things, see what's going on, see what orders have been issued ...

Leh Meriwether: I'll say this real quick, our website has ... We have dedicated an entire page just to this issue. We have all the orders, the emergency orders that have been issued for ... I don't know if it's every single county but it's a lot of counties. I didn't count them all. I need to double check that.

Leh Meriwether: If you go to our website MT Law Office dot com, or you can search Divorce Team dot com, you will ... At the very top there's a banner and it says read more, it says COVID-19, and then read more and you hit that. That will take you to the page. It's easy to get to. It has all the emergency orders.

Leh Meriwether: Don't bury your head in the sand. Look it up. By the same token, if you have something that's going on, a family violence case or something like that, we'll probably have a whole show about the steps to take in the middle of this crisis to get help, relief there. The courts are still there to help people.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Again, the main point of this show is the courts are open. Access is different but the courts are open. If you need help, if you need to file something, absolutely you can still file things, differently, you can still potentially get the courts attention and by that, I mean, if a hearing is required or some kind of an emergency issue arises and, of course, TPOs, temporary protective orders, if there is a violence issue, there is help available.

Todd Orston: Now, very quickly, I do also want to comment about people with existing cases. A lot of the orders that have come out have extended deadlines. Like discovery deadlines and things like that. But I'm not, and Leh, I know you're not, in this show going to explain or tell you what those deadlines are because what is happening in one county might be different in another. What's happening in one state is different from another state.

Todd Orston: You have to look at these orders coming down from the state or the county in which your case is pending to make sure you are following rules because if you miss a deadline, and that includes any extensions that were granted because of COVID-19, then you missed the deadline and you're not going to be able to come in and go, "Well, I didn't know." If you have a pending case, it is your job and your obligation to be informed. Really, at this point, unless you are living in a cabin in the woods, no electricity, no access to the internet, even then the court is going to say, "That's your problem. That's your issue."

Todd Orston: You have to be educated. It won't be a defense that, "Well, so much was happening in the world and I'm sorry I missed the deadline." The court probably, I have no doubt, will say, "That's a you problem, not a court problem." Please, please, please educate yourself. If you need help, contact us. Contact whoever you feel is appropriate but we are here to answer those kinds of questions and make sure you don't miss those deadlines.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Don't use this as an excuse but there are going to be exceptions here and there. You can always request relief from the court if you did miss a deadline, not because you weren't paying attention but your internet got shut off and there's a shelter-in-place order, you can't go to a library ... I used to tell people, "Well, go to a library. They have internet access there and computers." You can't do that now. They're shut down. That would violate the shelter-in-place order.

Leh Meriwether: Things are very different. If you have internet access then you have no ... I mean, I hate to say it but the court could easily say you have no excuse.

Todd Orston: Yeah.

Leh Meriwether: Unless you've come down with COVID-19 and you're actually in the hospital.

Todd Orston: Yes. Medical excuses are typically accepted by the court as long as you can show evidence that truly you were dealing with that medical issue. I've had people try and say, "Well ..." I had one case where somebody said, "I didn't come to court because I was in the hospital."

Todd Orston: Well, when we did a little bit of digging, hospital was sort of a loose term used by that person. They had gone to a minute clinic and got a document that where they were saying, "Oh, I was on death's door" and even the person of the minute clinic said, "Complains of ..." I think it was breathing issues, "Chest sounds clear. No temperature. The person left." The judge was not amused by that.

Todd Orston: If you have valid information, absolutely ... My assumption would be the court would accept it. Again, this is sort of like the Wild West in terms of the legal system. Everything is changing. Things that we, as practitioners, thought we knew and were confident about, we might have to throw that out the window because we're living in a much different time and judges might start handling things differently.

Todd Orston: The bottom line is even before COVID-19, if you are not represented, it is your obligation to stay on top of everything, to be in communication with the court, to make sure that you are basically doing everything you're supposed to do, and it was never a defense that, "I don't really understand how things work so I'm sorry I missed a deadline. Sorry I didn't come to court. Sorry, sorry, sorry."

Todd Orston: Usually the court will say, "That's not good enough. All you had to do was call, go online, do something and you would have educated yourself."

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. If you're represented by an attorney, your attorney is staying on top of it. Now they may not get back to you right away because our whole firm has been on high alert for every single order coming out, we're trying to stay on top of things. We're even contacting sheriff's offices to find out what they're doing to enforce orders, that sort of thing.

Leh Meriwether: You know, at 11 o'clock, "What are we going to do here? I'm not sure. I don't have good news for my client." Then 30 minutes later, another emergency or an amended emergency order comes out from the chief judge that now you have positive news.

Leh Meriwether: Just because you're not hearing from your lawyer doesn't mean that they're not trying to stay on top of it. It's just that things are happening so fast that we're about to pick up the phone to call and say, "Hey, here's what's going on" and a new order comes out or you get a new order from the governor's office and you need to read that order.

Leh Meriwether: In some cases ... Now the governor's order has kind of changed that, taken care of that but before the most recent governor ... I'm talking about the state of Georgia right now. Governor Kemp's order came out, all the local [inaudible 00:21:56] County had its own rules, the city of Canton, the city of Woodstock, those two they actually issued a joint order so at least their stuff was the same but each county and different cities were issuing their own orders and it was getting incredibly confusing, especially if you're driving from one place to another.

Leh Meriwether: The governor came out with an order, an executive order that said basically terminating all of the local orders and his order took control.

Todd Orston: Yeah. I also want to say this, I'm not saying judges are violating that order but every judge will handle his or her courtroom differently. That was before COVID-19. Where one judge might handle things in one way, you walk right next door, I'm not even talking about from one county to another, you could go from courtroom A to courtroom B and the judges handle things differently.

Todd Orston: It's also imperative that you be in contact with the court, meaning the judge's office, if you have a pending case to make sure that you're doing things the way they need them to be done.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. One of the things we're doing is for whatever active cases that we have, we may get an order from the chief judge and then reach out to the specific judge of our case and say, "All right. Are you handling it according to this order or is there any nuance that we need to be aware of?" Obviously, you have to say it nicely.

Leh Meriwether: I mean, even like all the counties around here it seems like the judges are handling things differently. Then some judges they were actually in the middle of Zoom hearings ... We know at least one of the attorneys in our office has already had a final hearing through video, which we're hoping to be able to interview him on our show and see how that went so we can ... Obviously, handling a Zoom hearing is much, much, much different than being in person in a courtroom. We're going to break that down I'm hoping in an upcoming episode, like how to prepare for a Zoom hearing. I wouldn't be surprised if this goes on for six, eight more weeks. As much as I hate to say it.

Todd Orston: Yeah. As a teaser, just so you understand, when we say there are differences, if you're in court and you have all of your exhibits, you want to present an exhibit, you stand up or you offer it usually to the deputy who then takes it once it's submitted to the judge. You're not in court. That means you have to somehow, someway get all of the documentary evidence to the judge ahead of the hearing. You know, there are some big differences.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Anyways, going back to what I was trying to say is that judge was in the middle of a hearing. She was in the middle of setting things up so that people could have the hearing and figuring out how to do it and then she had the hearing. Everybody else was kind of waiting. They're like, "Well, how is this judge going to handle my case? How are we going to handle these issues going forward? Do I need to show up to this status conference?" This is before this current shelter-in-place order. "Do I need to show up to this status conference. Are we doing it virtually? Are we suspending status conferences?"

Leh Meriwether: Unfortunately, we weren't able to tell our client what was going to happen for several days because the judge was in the middle of a trial. Now things have worked out ... As soon as I say, things are calming down, you know there's going to be a whole series of changes.

Todd Orston: It's going to evolve again. Another thing that has evolved is more mediators are now starting to schedule ... Because, again, the cases need to keep moving. They are starting to schedule virtual mediation. I don't know what the future holds but I could actually see that becoming more of a norm because usually in mediation, I can only speak for family law, we do a lot of what's called separate caucusing. Separate caucusing means you and your attorney, or if you're on your own, then you are in one room and separate from you is the other party and their attorney. The mediator then goes back and forth.

Todd Orston: Technically, I don't know how things are going to go but we may find, hey, that's pretty neat. The mediator can sit at home, go from one Zoom screen to another screen, and just go back and forth. It may end up being an extremely efficient way of conducting mediations. I don't know. I don't know if it will truly replace going to a location and sitting in a room and doing it because there are benefits there as well. You're more invested, you're not sitting in the comfort of your home, and hopefully, you're more eager to then get to an agreement and sign on the dotted line to finalize the case.

Todd Orston: But we don't know. Again, these are evolving. I think we're going to see how some of these things continue or whether they will continue in their current form.

Leh Meriwether: I'll have to say ... Have I ever done ... No, I had done mediations where my client wasn't there [crosstalk 00:27:07].

Todd Orston: Yeah. I've done that.

Leh Meriwether: They appeared by Skype. I had tend to found that they're not as effective. I'm curious ... I haven't talked to any ... I do know several attorneys that have already done some Zoom mediations. We're going to have an episode coming up talking about how to prepare for the mindset you need to have, that sort of thing.

Leh Meriwether: Going back to that show we did about communication and the divorce and the different forms of communication, there is so much that is nonverbal ... I know we're doing a Zoom call so you see things but still you can't see ... Especially, webcams, they're much better than they were five years ago but there's still little nuances and body movements and everything that you can miss on if you're not next to a person.

Todd Orston: Yeah. I agree. I think the biggest risk of not doing in-person mediation, I do believe that it's a different mindset when you have invested the time and money going to a location, sitting down with the mediator, talking about things. Most people they want to be done with the divorce process. They are invested, they have invested time, potentially money, and I believe that is a factor that will drive some people to be reasonable, whatever reasonable looks like, however it's defined, but they're there and they're like, "You know what? I want this done. I don't want to have to come back to court. Sign on the dotted line."

Todd Orston: One of my concerns is that people sitting in the comfort of their home might be more willing to go, "I'm done. No. I'm not doing that. I'm going upstairs for another cup of coffee. Thanks for playing. I'm out." That's my bigger concern.

Leh Meriwether: We'll see. Well, hopefully, we'll be able to look at the instant replay ... No, what's that called? The game day footage. We'll be able to hopefully in three or four months we'll be able to go back, analyze it, see how effective it worked, and see if mediation changes in the future because of it as well as hearings.

Leh Meriwether: You know, comparing Georgia to Florida, I would have a lot of telephonic hearings in Florida whereas Georgia didn't really have those. You could have conference calls with judges but not really hearings. Florida was more setup for telephonic hearings, which I really liked.

Leh Meriwether: You didn't have to drive to the courthouse. At 9:15, you better have called this telephone number and be in the conference call and then the call is recorded. There's part of me that hopes that maybe judges here in Georgia say, "You know what? Video conferencing is a great way to have a hearing" on not a full blown trial. I think in-person is still the best way to do a trial but on some of these shorter hearings on maybe specific issues, I think a video conference would be great because you can record the video conference too. Then if it needs to be transcribed you send the recording to the court reporter and they can transcribe it for [crosstalk 00:30:15].

Todd Orston: Yeah. That goes to what we were talking about earlier, what the lasting impact of COVID-19 and all of these changes will have on the legal system because, to your point, Florida did it one way for years and you found it to be very efficient and useful and helpful and you were able to get the hearings or handle the legal matters that needed to be handled.

Todd Orston: Here in Georgia, we did not adopt that. The only time we or the court would allow someone to basically attend remotely, there had to be some situation. Someone is in the military overseas or just something or they're so ill that it would be unsafe for them to travel to the courthouse and attend a hearing. Those are the kinds of situations.

Todd Orston: We may be in a different reality three weeks from now, two weeks from now, whatever where courts are like, "You know what? I think we could turn this into something that works longer term."

Todd Orston: One other thing I do want to comment on is you had made a comment about contempts and where we don't know whether it's true but judges sort of hinting at the fact that they're not really going to deal with maybe COVID-19 related contempts. That does not mean that you should not file something if the other party is engaging in what I'm going to call bad behavior. All right?

Todd Orston: Just because a court isn't going to hear it doesn't mean that you don't do something to protect yourself. The court may not give you a hearing very quickly and even if you haven't seen your child in a week or two or three, even if you get to court and, ultimately, the court says, "Well, because of COVID-19, I'm not going to throw the proverbial book at the other party." You need to secure your rights and secure your ability to call the other party out on their bad behavior.

Todd Orston: If you do nothing then nothing is going to happen. You're not going to be able to effectuate any change. But also, I will say this, before you race out and file, use common sense. We don't know, again, different world, brand new world here, don't know how the courts are going to deal with some of these issues.

Todd Orston: Use common sense. If the other party is saying, "No, our children are not coming over and visiting" and you're sitting there incensed going, "This makes no sense" but two people in your house have COVID-19 then maybe the court is not going to be as angry as if you are at home and you can show I have taken precautions, I'm not going into the office, and the other party is really just sort of using COVID-19 as an excuse to interfere with your parenting time.

Todd Orston: Use common sense but absolutely make sure that you do what you need to do to protect your rights.

Leh Meriwether: Right. We're going to have another show, also, [inaudible 00:33:07] a lot of shows here, to talk about let's say you are the one that was laid off in the middle of all of this but you have a child support obligation, an alimony obligation, what do you do? Well, we'll talk about that in another episode but I did just want to leave this, throw this out there, you may want to file.

Leh Meriwether: Talk to an attorney for sure. If you're in Georgia, give us a call, 678-879-9000. Normally, we don't give out this but this is such an ... Like you said, the Wild Wild West. Give us a call. We can talk to you about your situation. There are things you can do that can give you some protections from a contempt later on potentially, at least here in Georgia, and there may be in other states as well. You may not want to sit on things if you've lost your job and you had a significant alimony and child support obligation. You may want to take action with the court, even though you may not have a hearing right away ...

Leh Meriwether: Like in Georgia, you can't retroactively change a child support obligation.

Todd Orston: That's the big issue.

Leh Meriwether: Unless you have filed something.

Todd Orston: That's right.

Leh Meriwether: Then they can retroactively go back to the date of filing. We're going to talk about that in a future episode because there's a lot more nuance to it that we can't get to now.

Todd Orston: Great idea.

Leh Meriwether: Thanks. Hey, everyone.

Todd Orston: You know what? Yeah. Anyway, go ahead.

Leh Meriwether: What were you going to say?

Todd Orston: Nothing good. It's fine.

Leh Meriwether: With that, maybe we should end the show before you say something you shouldn't.

Todd Orston: I think maybe good idea.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Before we let you go, obviously, it's a different format so we're not rushed to end any particular segment. I hope you like the new format. Would love to hear from you. Email Todd, if you don't.

Todd Orston: With all the good stuff. The negative stuff, Leh loves getting those.

Leh Meriwether: [inaudible 00:35:08] Divorce Team dot com. That's our website. MT Law Office dot com. Same thing. If you're in Georgia, you have questions about the orders, go there, banner at the top of the page, click it. It has all the emergency orders in the state. We're doing our best to keep those updated. As soon as we hear from them, we update the website.

Leh Meriwether: Divorce Team Radio dot com will have this show and transcribed. Maybe not right away. There will be a few days delay on the transcription just because we changed how we're doing things but we'll have that up there as well.

Leh Meriwether: If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call at 678-879-9000. We are open. We have switched to all virtual, virtual meetings, virtual Zoom meetings, and Zoom mediations, Zoom hearings. We have adapted. Don't think that just because of this pandemic that everything is shut down. Anything else, Todd?

Todd Orston: I think you hit all the points. The system is still up and running. Just make sure you make good decisions. Protect yourself and don't make any assumptions. All right? The information is out there, the rules in place that govern whether courts are open and how they're operating. The rules are out there.

Todd Orston: If you don't look to an attorney or a firm for help, that's fine. We're here to try and help people and guide people but if you're not going to look to an attorney, for whatever reason, financial or otherwise, the information is out there and do not make assumptions. We could absolutely see some people getting themselves in some real hot water by not answering in time, by not filing something they need to file, so do everyone and, more importantly, do yourself a favor. Educate yourself. The courts are open, they are in operation, and you, therefore, need to play by the ever-changing rules that govern how your case is going to be handled.

Leh Meriwether: Hey, everyone. Thanks so much for listening.