This series is aimed to provide a Business Spotlight on local people and businesses in the East Contra Costa County community that are being impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and their response to the virus.
In today’s business spotlight, Amy Hilton, owner of Hilton Family Law in the City of Antioch highlights how she is navigating family law during a time when the court system is closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She also says that with 50-60% of her time spent in court, that has not only freed up her time, but is lost revenue.
Contra Costa County announced that the court is closed through April 28. For more information, click here.
ECT will be interviewing 30-businesses in 30-days during April to provide both information and to promote local business.
Name of Business: Hilton Family Law (Divorce Attorney)
Location: 5181 Lone Tree Way, Antioch, CA 94531
Phone: (925) 384-2086
What is Hilton Family Law?
Amy S. Hilton has been practicing family law exclusively for over a decade. Amy specialized in family law in order to ensure that she knew the Law, Judges, and Court system to equip her in securing the best results for her clients. While the goal is to stay out of Court, Amy is an experienced trial attorney and is able to represent your needs aggressively in Court if necessary.
Why did you open your law firm?
When I started family law, I was helping a friend who needed the help in his family law firm. I never wanted to do family law because I didn’t think it would be a good fit, but it turned out that it was great. That was 12-years ago and ever since then, I have enjoyed the challenge to help people resolve their problems in a way that I hope is the best for their family. When it is not possible to reach a settlement, then I have extensive court experience and that also helps my clients.
What do you love most about the service you provide?
The most gratifying thing is helping people restart their lives. When they first come see me, they are at one of their lowest points of their life and I get to help them start over with something more positive, self-affirming and give them something to look forward to. When we are done with the process, they are left feeling like there is so much more freedom from what they were going through prior to coming to see me.
How has the coronavirus impacted your business?
Right now, because I typically would spend so much time in court, I am down 50-60% in income. I had to lay off part of my staff and paid out sick time and vacation so they could get unemployment right away. I wanted to front load my employees for what was expected to be a long-time under shelter-in-place. It was a very rough day handing out that news.
From a job stand point, the courts are closed. So you don’t have the ability to file anything and people have lost their jobs and incomes have been reduced so they no longer have the ability to hire an attorney. There is also the complicated process to file on your own because with the courts being closed, there is little assistance available.
With divorce, its on hold for people who are in the process or those going to file. The economic impact right now is going to impact couples who may not have been doing that great anyway and the economic pressures are going to make it difficult to separate. For some, they will use this as an opportunity to work on their marriage.
With child custody cases, this is really challenging right now because you cannot run to the court and file paperwork or get an emergency order or a temporary order. Several issues are happening right now and we need to be able to get temporary orders but we cannot get them. This is not just for my clients, but a lot of other lawyers are in the same boat and tis impacting families.
For example, there is one case in the news where a parent is trying to withhold a child in custody because of a parents occupation because they are worried about COVID-19. What I am seeing is people need to work better together because they have to. My advice for people in co-parenting relationship to increase communication and be more gracious with one another because this is an unprecedented and a very stressful time. I encourage parents to be protective with their children because of the virus adding all this stress, just communicate and find ways to compromise for the benefit of your child. When the courts reopen, everyone can reevaluate their situations.
With domestic violence, you can still get an emergency protective order from the police. Although courts were closed, always call the police and get orders that way. I would encourage anyone who may be experiencing domestic violence to still report them and not tolerate it because it is never acceptable to be abused and this virus is not an excuse for any type of violence.
One topic that is still needing to be worked out is adjusting child support because now that people are losing their jobs and income, people need to file an order to modify the support. The question now is how far back a court will go to modify the order. If you lost your job on March 17 and you are not able to file for 4-weeks, what happens to the 4-weeks? Would you still be responsible? Usually the retroactivity is reserved back to the day you have filed. The courts are ultimately going to have to deal with this issue of timing in terms of modification of support because there was a lack of access to the courts. This will be a tough balancing act between fairness and due process.
How have you responded to coronavirus – how has your business changed?
I’ve seen a drop in 50-60 percent of my time in a courthouse, that has been eliminated for the time being. It’s going to continue to be eliminated until at least June, so we have anticipated a 50-60% reduction in our revenue. The fact is that I am fortunate to have retained even 40% of my revenue. Other industries have lost much more.
We are still open and accepting new clients, but its over the phone or on video conference. I am working 100% remotely and out of my house. That brings the same challenges that all working people have with kids, running in while I am on the phone and demands for my time. I can’t hide at the office anymore! But my goal is to remain positive, and to channel my energy into things that will help us through this, like limiting my access to news and social media and staying focused on my family, my clients, my business, and my community as I am apart of several civic community organizations.
Having to restructure my business in under 24 hours was a challenge. Now we are hearing the courts will be doing hearings remotely. Meeting with people remotely will be different but what hurts is reducing my staff which puts more burden on not only myself, but my other team members who remain. But ultimately, the goal is for world to heal from this horrible virus and I will continue to do my part until we are through the this together.
Any special deals or advice right now that the community can take advantage of?
We are working on some setting up blocks of time that people can schedule appointments with myself or staff to have questions answered. That is going to launched within the next two weeks. In the meantime, my advice for married couples is to look at what is important to you, which should be your family. Maybe this is the time they need to heal what was broken instead of breaking it forever. Unless you are in a situation that is dangerous or mentally abusive, spend your time improving on your marriage and really re-learn how to love one another. With kids, put them first because they are going to respond to this based on how you respond. Have more fun with them, spend time with them doing crafts because we can’t control the outcome of this virus or the timeline. You are never going to get this kind of time with your kids again. If you feel like your marriage is really over, spend some time on yourself to evaluate who you are and what you want your next chapter in life to be like and pray this is over soon and our world heals.
Business Spotlight Series
- #6: GolfBallin Stays Positive While Navigating Around Golf Course Closures
- #5: Rapunzel Wigs Closed After County Ordinance, Supply Chain Impact
- #4: Rick Fuller Says Technology Helping Move Property During Covid-19 Pandemic
- #3: The Bike Shop Reopens After Clarification on Essential Business
- #2: Revive Salon and Spa Closes, Now Waits Out Stay-At-Home Order
- # 1: Josh Young at Newfront Insurance Navigates Through Coronavirus Pandemic
Disclosure: this series is being done at no cost to local business or individuals as an attempt to provide value to our community. If interested in potentially being included in this series, email [email protected]