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'A Waiting Game': Coronavirus Shutdowns Cause Unprecedented Backlog In Divorce, Family Law Cases

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- Another unexpected consequence of the coronavirus - couples across the state who have to wait to untie the knot.

The pandemic has forced courts to close for months, creating an unprecedented backlog in divorce cases.

"It's very frustrating," said Pearl Barlow, who is waiting for her divorce filings to move through the courts. "It's just a waiting game for me, and I feel like my life's put on hold."

Barlow said she hoped to be divorced before the end of 2020, but now she's afraid it could take up to two years.

"They just said, 'We're closed' and 'Don't call us. We'll contact you once we reopen,'" she said.

Vernon Ellicott, a family law attorney, said that all of the courts in California are struggling to keep up with the amount of cases they had to put on hold over the past few months.

"It's the largest backlog that any of us have ever seen," he said. "Part of the problem is nobody knows what to do, because they've never been in that situation before."

Ellicott says trials scheduled to start in spring or summer might not happen until next year, leaving parents like Christine, who is settling a child custody case, hanging in the balance.

"It's so stressful just thinking [about] the what ifs," Christine said. "I'd rather just get that day done with."

Paternity cases and child support cases are also being held up.

Attorneys said, while some clients are understanding, many are frustrated.

"I just can't move past this when I just want this to be over," Barlow said.

Christine said she is hoping the court can find a new way to do business in the coronavirus era.

"All the rest of us are having to navigate this new world that we are going to be living in for a couple of year," she said. "We're all having to adjust. The courts should adjust as well."

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