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Marital and Family Law Attorney

Divorce During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Family Law Attorneys Assisting Miami Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Even in the best circumstances, getting a divorce can be stressful and emotionally charged. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a public health emergency that has resulted in the Governor of Florida declaring a state of emergency. During this time, there can be particularly difficult challenges regarding divorce, child custody (timesharing), child support, and alimony. The Florida State Courts have issued administrative orders to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on legal proceedings and their participants. If you need to get a divorce during the coronavirus pandemic, you should call Miami divorce lawyer Sandy T. Fox. Mr. Fox is a Florida Bar Board Certified specialist in marital and family law.

Divorce During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus is affecting timesharing arrangements, as well as child support and spousal support. Some parents may need to alter custody arrangements due to the need to avoid the spread of the virus or due to a need to work from home or an inability to engage in homeschooling while working from home. Sometimes a parent makes changes to existing orders unilaterally, which can give rise to heated disputes, or there may be domestic violence that requires an emergency resolution in court. Many people are losing their jobs and therefore may not be able to pay child support or alimony that has been ordered. The Eleventh and Seventeenth Circuit Courts of Florida have issued recent administrative orders setting forth rules to apply during the coronavirus pandemic.

Administrative Orders in the Eleventh Circuit Court (Miami-Dade County)

The Eleventh Circuit Court serves Miami and other cities in Miami-Dade County. In the administrative order related to parental responsibility and timesharing in the Eleventh Circuit, the court orders parents and other parties to continue to follow settlement agreements along with any court orders in place. Parents are prohibited from unreasonably restricting a child’s access to the other parent, unless this restriction is already provided in an applicable court order.

The regular timesharing outlined in a parenting plan is supposed to continue until the official last day of school is announced. At that point, summer timesharing as set forth in a current order or final judgment is supposed to start. If an exchange is supposed to take place at a school or daycare that is not open, a new place of exchange should be arranged between the parents in writing or via electronic communication. If the parents cannot agree, they need to file a motion with the court. Our attorneys can assist parents with this process.

If the Governor orders that shelter-in-place should occur, no timesharing exchanges should take place. Likewise, if there are local directives related to shelter-in-place, parties are supposed to follow the applicable directives. However, after the government orders are lifted, timesharing should resume.

The Eleventh Circuit also ordered that phone and video contacts should be honored as provided by a parenting plan and even be increased to regular and consistent contact to alleviate children’s fears and concerns during the pandemic.

A separate Eleventh Circuit administrative order provides that since the COVID-19 pandemic is massively affecting its operations, it is necessary to postpone all non-emergency court proceedings, including uncontested divorces, through the end of the day on May 29, 2020. All the time limits set by judicial orders that are applicable to a range of cases, including family law or domestic violence cases, are suspended until the end of the day on June 1, 2020. Any deadlines falling between March 13 and June 1 are extended for 80 days from the original deadline.

Administrative Orders in the Seventeenth Circuit Court (Broward County)

The Seventeenth Circuit Court serves Fort Lauderdale and other cities in Broward County. The recent administrative order issued in the Seventeenth Circuit is somewhat similar to the order in the Eleventh Circuit. However, it provides that when daycares and schools are the places where children were supposed to be exchanged between parents, and they are closed, but the parents cannot agree to an alternative arrangement for the exchange, the exchange should happen at the police station or sheriff’s office located closest to the school or daycare, as determined by a mapping program such as Google Maps or Apple Maps.

The Seventeenth Circuit order also provides that if the state or local government issues a shelter-in-place order or an order requiring self-quarantine, the parties are supposed to go over best methods to meet the requirements of a child’s school, stay with siblings when possible, and be safe. If timesharing and exchanges can happen and be consistent with governmental orders, timesharing can continue as the court orders or according to the terms described under the administrative order. However, if a parent cannot move around the community freely due to a shelter-in-place order, the parent who has 183 overnights or more is supposed to keep the children until there is a court order or until the governmental order is lifted. Afterward, the court will have jurisdiction to consider any make-up timesharing, and a parent’s unreasonable behavior may be sanctioned.

Another Seventeenth Circuit order sets forth rules for emergency hearings. Certain matters are considered mission-critical, and if a presiding judge determines that the proceeding requires an in-person hearing to be held before the court’s normal operations resume, the judge must discuss with the Chief Judge. If they decide to hold an in-person hearing, social distancing should occur at the hearing. This order also provides that non-essential court proceedings in unified family court should continue to avoid a backlog, but they should be held only via communication equipment.

Consult a Divorce Lawyer in the Miami Area

If you need to pursue a divorce during the coronavirus pandemic or modify an existing family law order, you should consult Attorney Sandy T. Fox. Mr. Fox represents people in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Aventura, Hollywood, and other cities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Call us toll-free at 800.596.0579 or locally at 305.932.6542, or contact us via the online form.