The short answer is yes. However, for a detailed explanation, see below.
We are getting this question a lot. As you may be aware, the Utah State Courts have been closed to nearly all in-person hearings for several weeks. In fact, Judge Kouris, the Presiding Judge of the Third District Court, has continued all criminal hearings and trials for fourteen days.
At this point, there is still a lot of uncertainty as to how the Coronavirus will impact the judicial system in the coming weeks, months and possibly a year or more.
That being said, the judiciary is scrambling to accommodate an increased number of telephonic hearings. Many matters that were previously being held in court are not being handled telephonically. We are hoping that the court will take advantage of widespread technology, including virtual conferencing, to ensure that the judicial system follows its Constitutional mandates.
As for Carr | Woodall, we have reduced our on-site staff. Those who are not coming into the office are working remotely from their homes. In the office, we disinfect daily. We have tried to continue to conduct consults remotely. For those people who still wanted to move forward with their divorce or other legal matter, we continue to file. The court’s filing system has been electronic for nearly a decade. As such, it was well-equipped to handle this situation. Once filed, we need serve the opposing party who has at least twenty-one days to file an answer. Once an answer is filed, it is still generally 1-2 months before the first hearing. As such, provided the virus situation is under control in the next 2 months, it should have very little impact on any new divorce filings.
There is still more that we do not know than we know. However, our country and our judiciary has always adapted to the circumstances presented to it. Even if this virus is not under control, it is likely all hearings will be become virtual. Carr | Woodall has the technology available now to immediately start handling virtual hearings. Virtual hearings could make the divorce process much less expensive because attorneys will not spend time driving to the courthouse or waiting in the courtroom for other hearings to finish. It could reduce the average cost of a divorce by thousands of dollars.
If there is one positive thing that could come from this experience, it may be that the Utah State Courts expedite the transition to fully virtual hearings and, possibly, trials. This will result in greater efficiencies long term.
We hope you are all staying safe. We will continue to operate through these trying times. If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call our office.