ANSWER: On March 31, 2020, Governor Doug Ducey issued a stay-at-home order to combat the spread of COVID-19. The order urges Arizonans to stay at home unless they need to do essential activities. Businesses such as salons, gyms, and movie theaters were declared non-essential, resulting in most of those companies’ employees being laid off or furloughed. Under the order, restaurants can only serve food by take out or drive through. Essential and non-essential businesses alike were urged to provide their employees with the opportunity for remote work whenever possible. The order was issued to expire on April 30, 2020. Today, Ducey announced that the stay-at-home order will extend through May 15, 2020 with modifications. The Travel Restriction Order was extended until May 15, 2020.
Gatherings of all kinds are being suspended across the country, and the criminal court is no exception. Beginning March 17, 2020, the Maricopa County Superior Court modified its procedures for a minimum of 60 days. If you have a pending criminal case, such as a DUI, you should keep yourself informed of these changes to make sure your case runs as smoothly as possible.
ANSWER: Businesses and services across the country are being forced to close, and many may not reopen after the quarantine is over. So far, 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment during the pandemic. In an effort to reduce the economic impact of COVID-19’s spread, lawmakers enacted the CARES Act and millions of Americans can expect a stimulus check of $1,200 or more. If you received summons or a judgment recently, you may be concerned about how this will affect your coronavirus stimulus check.
Failing to respond to a summons will result in a default judgment. If you have received a judgment, your creditor will likely soon be able to get a garnishment order to collect on their debt. Most often, creditors choose to garnish the debtor’s wages so they have a consistent stream of income to repay the debt. A wage garnishment is typically 25% of the debtor’s income, but this is also the maximum amount the debtor may be garnished. The CARES Act specified that the stimulus checks won’t be treated as earned income in that they can’t be garnished by your creditors.
ANSWER: On 3/26/2020, the staff of My AZ Lawyers, addressing the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic writes:
Most of the courts in Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties are currently doing hearings telephonically. Most but not all of the courts. There still are a few of the courts that are still holding hearings. If you have an upcoming court date (and are one of our clients), call and check with our office and we will advise you as to the status of your court hearing.
Additionally, you could check with the court’s website to see whether the court is open and allowing visitors. Each court has a section on their homepage with updates as to what the status of the court is currently. Our paralegals and staff at My Arizona Lawyers can assist you with the status of your court hearing.
If you end up having to go to court, please be aware that some courts are screening people before letting them into the building. This screening may include having your body temperature taken and may also include questions about your recent travel and if you are experiencing symptoms. These precautions will be in place for the foreseeable future until this pandemic is controlled.
ANSWER: No. We offer telephonic consultations all the time, not just during public health crises. This makes it easier for those who work or care for others full time to discuss their case without worrying about taking time off work and arranging transportation and child care. If you have documents you are concerned about explaining over the phone, scan them onto your computer so you can email them for review during your consultation. Contact us today and set up a free over-the-phone consultation.
Family Law and Coronavirus FAQS (Frequently Asked Questions)
ANSWER: If you participate in society in any sort of way, you’re probably aware that due to the spread of COVID-19, people have been stockpiling household goods such as soap and toilet paper. Some Americans truly don’t have a square to spare, not even a ply. All of this hoarding in conjunction with an increasing unemployment rate means that an increase in crime and criminal activity may not be far behind
For instance, on April 6, 2020, a 26-year-old California man was arrested and charged with battery after a dispute with his mother over toilet paper. The mother had been hiding toilet paper as she thought he was using too much, and when he confronted her, it escalated to violence. The mother is fine and that district experienced their first call over a toilet paper dispute.
ANSWER: The spread of coronavirus, and the shelter-in-place orders put into effect to slow the spread, have caused an upheaval in the schedules of parents across the country. This can be even more confusing for parents who split custody with an ex.
If you have a custody agreement, you are probably wondering how quarantine affects these orders. For former couples who get along better, they can temporarily and informally modify custody arrangements to suit the current situation. Since there basically isn’t childcare anymore, parents should try to coordinate around which parent is also working remote, or is not working at all. If anyone is sick in the household, the child should be kept at the other parent’s house if no one in that household is symptomatic. It should be noted that taking your child to their other parent is not a violation of shelter-in-place orders.
ANSWER:On May 3, 2020, Arizona Family Attorneys at My AZ Lawyers write:
While you are at home working remotely and social distancing, you have probably seen many commercials and public service announcements thanking healthcare workers for their bravery and service during the coronavirus pandemic. However, one doctor in Florida isn’t exactly receiving applause for working in an emergency room during a pandemic. Dr. Theresa Greene already had a split custody agreement in place with her ex-husband for their 4-year-old daughter. While it is unclear whether Dr. Greene had definitively been exposed to COVID-19, mere fears of coronavirus contamination were enough for one family court judge to temporarily take away custody.
ANSWER: Plain and simple answer is that you cannot quit paying your child support. Financially, not paying your child support is a bad idea. Unpaid child support accrues interest at 10% annually and is not able to be discharged by filing for bankruptcy protection.
Perhaps the best idea would be to modify your child support payments. The Coronavirus Pandemic causing you to lose your job would qualify as a change of circumstances, especially if your layoff is permanent. However, your child support payments are your first priority according to Arizona law. It is better to pay as much as you can regarding child support than to not pay it.
ANSWER: The Supreme court suggests using a place where few people congregate as there is less chance of exposure to the children being exchanged. Additionally, if your exchange place prior to COVID-19 is closed, we suggest looking for a place nearby.
Regarding supervised parenting exchanges, you should follow the guidelines set out in your parenting plan. However, if this is not possible because of the Coronavirus, it would be best to try and agree on an alternative (person or agency) to supervise the exchange. OurAZ Family Lawyers recommend keeping the exchanges supervised if that is how they are ordered. Do not choose to just do exchanges unsupervised. Coronavirus or not, it is best to follow the rules of the parenting plan.
ANSWER: Be careful here. Our Arizona Family Lawyers caution parents from withholding a child from the other parent based on the Coronavirus Pandemic. Here is why: On April 1, 2020, the Arizona Supreme Court wrote, “A parent is not permitted to deny parenting time based upon the other parent’s unwillingness to discuss precautionary measures taken, or belief that the other parent’s precautions are insufficient.”
As you can see, you are not alone with your concern that the other parent is not being as “safe” as you would prefer. however, the court is very clear on their position.
The family courts are currently dealing with an issue of first impression as society tries to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic. The average parenting plan does not include a paragraph or clause regarding how parents should navigate shared custodial arrangements as the world slowly shuts down. For Arizona parents, the further complicating factor is that the statewide shutdown of schools began during many district’s spring breaks.
Parenting plans typically alternate spring breaks with one parent exercising parenting time in even years and the other in odd. Over the past few weeks conflicts have come up with parents claiming this shutdown is an extended spring break that allows them to keep their children from the other parent OR parents are refusing to honor the other’s spring break parenting time, claiming the school closures supersede and spring break is canceled. There is no real clarity. There is no right answer on how to move through this situation, but there are absolutely things that should not happen and will damage a parent’s credibility when the inevitable modification or contempt filing is sought.
Without a doubt, 2020 will be known as (hopefully the only) year of coronavirus. To stop the pandemic’s spread, gatherings of 10 or more people have been discouraged and nonessential businesses have been forced to close. Services that remained open have had to operate under strict social distancing and sanitation protocols. As the death toll continues to rise and experts warn of resurgences, it is impossible to say when the pandemic will be over. Millions of Americans have been laid off or furloughed from their jobs, or are now required to work from home. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with their spouse has made some people question their relationships. Stress about finances and disagreements over how strictly to self isolate can also put strain on a marriage. Those who are considering divorce are left with the question, “Is it even possible right now?”
As more and more businesses are forced to close or restrict their services, people worldwide can’t participate in their favorite hobbies and pastimes. Gatherings of ten or more are discouraged, and there are only so many times you can rewatch The Office. Millions are suffering financially, but some businesses are unintendedly reaping the benefits- and it’s not just Charmin and Purell.
Now that many Americans are working from home, less, or not at all, they have more time to spend with their partners. Some will also naturally seek intimacy during stressful times. The American condom brand Promescent has reported sales increases of over 50%, and even more on some related items such as lubricant. Condoms are sold out in Singapore. Even for those who do have access to these products, birth control sometimes fails. Sociologists expect to see a baby boom around December 2020. Then, on November 30, 2033, we must prepare for the rise of the quarantines. This demographic may still be outnumbered by another group- those who divorced as a result of Coronavirus quarantining.
Even though it feels like the entire world is shut down, debt and its collection attempts are not. Whether you were struggling financially before the pandemic, or quarantining has sent you into a state of immediate financial peril, you may need the protections provided by filing bankruptcy. Once your bankruptcy is filed, you have an automatic stay of protection. When the stay is in effect, your wages can’t be garnished, and repossession and foreclosure efforts will be halted. The stay remains in effect until your case is discharged or dismissed. If you are in need of bankruptcy protection, you may be wondering how the spread of coronavirus will affect your ability to file
On March 30, 2020, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recently asked Arizonans to stay home unless they need to perform essential functions. Many bankruptcy attorneys offer telephonic consultations so you can avoid going into the office. Our office offers telephonic consultations free of charge. If you have any documents pertaining to your case that you’d like the attorney to review, you should have them scanned and ready to email.
On 3/26/2020, the bankruptcy attorneys of My AZ Lawyers, addressing the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic writes:
Yes, you will need to sign the “Affidavit of Debtor” or a similar form that the bankruptcy will send to you in order to verify your identity. This document is going to need to be notarized, which in itself may be a task with the COVID-19 closing many businesses. Our suggestion to you, don’t wait until the last minute to get your document notarized.
It is one of the responsibilities of a Bankruptcy Trustee during a 341 hearing. It is also one of the main reasons why 341 hearings are usually done in person. This affidavit that is sent to you is the best that they can do to verify your identity sans you being present.
The Coronavirus pandemic has really created a mess of the 341 schedule for anyone who has filed bankruptcy in the last 90 days. Many hearings have been postponed by 2 weeks, 4 weeks, or have been switched to telephonic hearings. Keep on top of your postponed 341 date as the second round of postponements is lurking.
On 3/26/2020, the bankruptcy attorneys of My AZ Lawyers, addressing the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic writes:
Regarding your bankruptcy filing, you should expect delays. Plan on being patient as courts are taking steps to assure of filers, trustees, attorneys, and staff.
Additionally, many of the courts are open, sorta, however, they are operating with a limited staff or are operating remotely. We are expecting delays in the processing of documents and both hearings and 341 meetings are being rescheduled by many courts. These delays will continue until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.
On a positive note, My Arizona Lawyers is still operating as normal. We are taking every step to keep both our clients and our staff safe. Each member of our staff has a laptop computer and is available by e-mail. Also, we are doing consultations, bankruptcy filings, petition signings, and answering questions telephonically. We encourage clients to e-mail or snail mail in documents and are a social distancing participant.
On 5/11/2020 the Attorneys and Staff at My Arizona Lawyers write:
In April, 2020, FoodFirst Global Restaurants filed for Chapter eleven Bankruptcy protection. The company has Brio Tuscan Grille, which currently has a restaurant in San Tan Village in Gilbert, Arizona. The restaurant chain previously had an additional Brio Restaurant in the Scottsdale Quarter in Scottsdale, Arizona. Employees and fans of the restaurant are wondering as to exactly how bankruptcy will influence it.
FoodFirst selected a Chapter eleven Bankruptcy, instead of a Chapter seven, which enables it to keep operating. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation of assets and, when dealing with a business, usually concludes with the business no longer being open. While, Chapter 11 allows a business to re-organize their assets and continue to be in business.
ANSWER: On May 4, 2020, Arizona Zero Down Bankruptcy Lawyers Write:
Most American shopping malls have been closed for at least 6 weeks because of stay-at-home and quarantine orders issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Arizona is one of the majority of states that are keeping people in a “Stay at Home” mode. Unsurprisingly, many large retailers have been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
ANSWER: That depends on how much debt you already have, and how long it takes you to find a new job. Interest rates are low right now so if you take out a loan and find a new job fairly quickly, you probably won’t accrue enough debt to make filing bankruptcy worth it. If you were already facing garnishment, repossession, or foreclosure, being laid off will put you further in the hole. However, if you were only facing a garnishment, it might serve you well to wait until you find a new job. Your paychecks can’t be garnished if you aren’t receiving one, and having a job will help you qualify for $0 down financing at firms that offer that payment option. You should consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney that offers free consultations to discuss whether filing bankruptcy is a good option for you, and when would be a good time to file.
ANSWER: We can do your consultation over the phone, and collect your documents to draft your petition electronically. Once we draft your petition, we can email it to you so you can review it, and then you will be scheduled to telephonically review your petition with your attorney. If everything is correct and you’re ready to file, your attorney will file your case electronically. Even your credit counseling courses will be taken online. The only part of the bankruptcy that must be completed in person is the 341 Meeting of Creditors. However, these hearings are currently suspended until at least the end of the month. It is unsure if 341 hearings will eventually be held telephonically, but hearings will not resume until the crisis is over. You will have an automatic stay of protection from the moment you file until your case is discharged to prevent from debt collection.
ANSWER: Dropping off documents in person was already the least popular way to submit documents at our firm. You may also fax or email your documents to avoid in-person contact at the firm. Our staff will be able to call or email you to answer any questions you have about collecting the documents.
On March 11, 2020, the spread of coronavirus was upgraded by the World Health Organization from a global health emergency to a pandemic. Many businesses were forced to close entirely, but most stay-at-home orders included special provisions for bars and restaurants. In Arizona, bars and restaurants are only allowed to serve food through pick up, delivery, or drive-through. For the time being, they can serve alcoholic beverages to-go, but patrons can’t enjoy their beverages on-site. Police officers are also pulling over and arresting less people as jails and prisons are breeding grounds for the coronavirus.