Domestic Relations in the Wake of Coronavirus (COVID-19)


Apr 8, 2020

As many are aware, on March 27, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper implemented Executive Order 121 (the “Stay at Home Order”) requiring that all non-essential activities, as defined by the order, cease effective March 30, 2020. As many may not be aware, the North Carolina Judicial Branch has by orders of Chief Justice Cheri Beasley dated March 13, 2020 and April 2, 2020 (the “Court Orders”) directed that most Court dates be continued to a date not earlier than June 1, 2020. Below are some common questions which we are receiving about domestic relations matters, and our answers.

What does this mean for your domestic case and court orders previously entered? Any pending domestic trials will be continued; however, the Court will still be available to hear emergency matters such as domestic violence and/or emergency hearings.

Do the Court Orders mean that your domestic matter cannot be resolved until court reopens? No. Judges are available to enter orders by consent and in many instances, will be more than happy to enter those orders. In the interim our attorneys continue to work on negotiated resolutions and preparation for trials, if trial is necessary. The legal profession is considered “essential personnel” for purposes of the Stay at Home Order, so we continue to be available for you. The meetings may be a little different (i.e., by telephone or video instead of face-to-face), but we are glad to assist current or new clients.

Do the Court Orders mean that you cannot start a new filing for divorce, custody, child support, alimony, etc.? No. Each county’s Clerk of Court office is currently open, though possibly with modified hours in some counties. Complaints, motions, and other filings are currently being accepted despite the Stay at Home Order and the Court Orders.

Why should you file now when you know that your court date will be delayed? Filing made now will allow time for service of the documents and will not be as significantly delayed in obtaining a hearing date, unlike filings would be if you waited until Courts reopen.

What do you do if you already have a custody or other domestics relations order in place, but have not completed everything required? You must continue to comply with the Court’s existing orders. If a certain service is not available due to the Stay at Home Order, you should take steps to continue to be compliant with the Court’s order in your case by the means available to you.

Do you still have to allow your child to go to the other parent’s home during the Stay at Home Order? Existing Court orders are still in place. Again, in the event that a Court order has been entered, you must take steps to make sure that you are compliant with the Court’s order. If the Stay at Home Order prevents some part of the Court’s order from being completed, you must take whatever action is available to you to show to the Court, if necessary, that you have taken the required steps that are within your control as long as it can safely be done.

Please remember, the current situation is new for everyone and we are all in this together. Be sure to use what resources that you have available in these uncertain times, including a spirit of cooperation and understanding. Stay safe, be responsible, and….wash your hands! If your best efforts are simply not enough during this time, or you find yourself in a domestic situation which cannot be resolved through cooperation between the parties, we are and will remain available for current or new clients; please feel free to contact us. We will be glad to schedule a phone appointment or video conference to provide guidance and options for now or in the near future.

The foregoing article is prepared by attorneys Delaina “Dee” Davis Boyd and David J. Fillippeli, Jr. of White & Allen, P.A. in order to provide general information to interested parties who wish to learn more about these topics discussed. This article is not intended to give, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you would like additional information or to discuss your specific situation, please contact White & Allen, P.A. by calling 252- 747-3900 (Ms. Boyd) or 252-527-8000 (Mr. Fillippeli).

White & Allen, P.A. is a full service law firm in eastern North Carolina. Since we opened our doors in 1927, our reputation has been built on trust.