On April 2, 2020, Miami-Dade Chief Judge, Berta Soto, issued an administrative order: IN RE: Parenting Procedures in the Family and Unified Children’s Court Divisions During the COVID-19 Pandemic. According to the order, as it is in the best interest of the parties and child(ren), parents are to continue to perform their duties and responsibilities of co-parenting, to share the additional responsibilities through this time, and that the parties comply with all orders and Court rules.
The Order is intended for all family law matters regarding parental responsibility and timesharing. In the Order, the court lays out the following guidelines:
The court expects all parties to continue to follow all final judgments, temporary orders, settlement agreements, or other orders of the Court concerning parental responsibility or timesharing,
Unless otherwise prohibited by court order, each parent is prohibited from unreasonably restricting access for the child(ren) to the other parent.
Regular timesharing as set forth in a Parenting Plan shall continue until the date the school designates as being the last day of school at which time summer timesharing shall begin.
Exchanges that were to take place at the school or daycare that is not currently open shall be arranged between the parents. In the event, the parents cannot come to an agreement, a motion shall be filed with the Court.
In the event an order from the Governor or any other government official issues an order that requires parties to “shelter in place,” no timesharing exchanges can take place. Once the order is lifted, parties are to resume time-sharing.
Video conferencing between the child and the parent that does not have overnight timesharing shall be honored as set forth in the Parenting Plan and should be increased to “regular and consistent contact” to alleviate fears and concerns the child(ren) may be experiencing during this time.
Parties are expected to cooperate in the scheduling of any hearings, depositions, mediations, and other out of court interactions.
Parents are strongly cautioned that unreasonable, hurtful, or destructive behavior may be sanctioned by the Court.
The Miami-Dade justice system may not be operating at full capacity, but it is still functioning. According to the Miami-Dade Clerk of Court’s website, the Miami Dade Courthouses have been closed to the public, expect for essential matters and matters per judicial discretion. All non-emergency court proceedings, including but not limited to, special set hearings, trials, and all calendars, including but not limited to, motions, pretrial motions, foreclosures, writs of possession, uncontested divorces and case management conferences, will be postponed through Friday, April 17, 2020, except for mission critical matters and other court proceedings and events that can be effectively conducted remotely without the necessity of in-person appearances.
Miami-Dade Courthouses remain open for in person Domestic Violence Injunctions, for Baker or Marchman Act Petitions, Bond Hearings, Juvenile Dependency Hearings, Termination of Parental Rights Hearings, and other emergency hearings. In the event you are obligated to appear in person for a court hearing, you must remain six feet apart from all other participants.
Miami-Dade Family Judges are currently holding hearings for non-emergency court proceedings either by phone conference or by Zoom! If you currently have a family law case pending in Miami-Dade County, or wish to file a new case, your case is assigned to one judge. Each judge has their own website. On that website, you will find detailed instructions on how your judge will be conducting hearings, how to submit documents, and also how to contact the judge’s assistant for guidance.
COVID-19 or better known as the Coronavirus has brought uncertainty and anxiety. Do not panic and do not lose sight of your goals. This is the time to act. This is the time to plan.
If you are currently going through a divorce or a custody dispute, this is the time to reevaluate. You may wish to set your differences aside and enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement that allows both you and your spouse to plan for your financial futures. You should be cooperating with your spouse and focus on the best interest of your children. Child support or alimony obligations should be discussed.
If you are currently preparing to file for divorce, you can and should move forward. The courts are currently experiencing a light workload. If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce, a family law judge will be able to get you divorced even during the coronavirus stay at home order. We strongly recommend that you contact a family law attorney to guide you through your options at this time.