Divorce Court Backlog and the COVID-19 Crisis


The coronavirus pandemic has brought many changes to many aspects of all of our lives. As of this writing, schools are closed for the remainder of the year, only stores considered “essential” are open, many people are working from home, and others are unable to work at all. These are indeed unusual times. Given the pressures and stresses, it may seem insensitive to some to talk about the issue of divorce. But the reality is that for some couples whose marriage was already on the brink, this time of “shelter in place” has pushed them over the edge. For those couples, now what?

Like other business all over Texas, divorce courts are in various stages of functionality. Some counties are fully open for business. Other counties are still effectively closed to all but those cases they consider to be urgent. And still others are somewhere in between. But for almost all courts, hearing and trial settings have been delayed, thereby creating a backlog of cases to be resolved. How can you get your divorce resolved without getting caught in the backlog?

More and more people are learning about the Collaborative Divorce process, where couples agree from the beginning to stay out of court. This divorce process has never needed the court system help couples divorce, and it never will. That’s the whole premise. It is a private process that takes place in the seclusion of a conference room, not on public display in an open courtroom. There is no judge who is a stranger to you and your family, making decisions that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. You and your spouse make your own decisions with the help of experienced divorce professionals. And you won’t be waiting months and months (and months) for the court to set your case on its trial docket.

There are many divorce attorneys who have not been trained in the Collaborative Divorce process. The process has been used in Texas for 20 years, but some lawyers still only resolve their cases with court-imposed deadlines – temporary orders hearings, court-ordered mediation, trial settings. Collaborative Divorce attorneys need none of that. They work with clients to resolve their divorce in private settings with control over the schedule and the cost of the process.

While courts are closed and trial lawyers are trying to figure out how to present evidence and questions witnesses on video trials (if courts are even offering that), Collaborative Divorce attorneys are doing what they have always been doing – meeting together in private settings to help people divorce in a respectful and peaceful way. It’s just that now we hold those meetings by video. The change for Collaborative Divorce is that it opens up future possibilities to make this process available to clients in parts of the state where there may not be as many (or any) Collaboratively trained attorneys. With my office in Collin County, I can now interact face-to-face with any divorce client around the state. There are plenty of other excellently trained Collaborative lawyers in the state who can do the same. So when divorce is the only option you have left, there is a better way.

Rhonda Cleaves is a divorce attorney Credentialed by Collaborative Divorce Texas. Doing their part to reduce the spread of disease during the pandemic, the lawyers and staff of Cleaves Family Law are working remotely but are fully equipped and ready to meet clients’ legal needs. Video consultations can be scheduled by calling (972) 403-0333.

Rhonda Cleaves

Rhonda began practicing law in 1995. She left a successful civil trial practice in 2005 to concentrate on family law — specifically, helping families transition to postdivorce life. She now practices exclusively in this area.

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