Previously, on March 27, 2020 we posted an article advising parents on how to view their court-ordered time-sharing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 9, 2020, the 7th Judicial Circuit, serving Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns Volusia Counties, issued Order Z-2020-035 Extending Emergency Court Procedures until June 1, 2020 and Order Z-2020-036 regarding Emergency “Parenting” Procedures in Family Law Cases. Nearly all of the Court’s instructions in those new orders are consistent with that previous article.
Here are some key points of the orders:
- Court Orders have not changed: Courts expect parents to follow parenting plans and prior orders and not unreasonably restrict access to the child from the other parent - *Hint – not thinking the other parent is being safe enough is probably considered unreasonable
- Court Orders aren’t changed by other State, County, or City Orders: “Actions taken by the Governor, the Supreme Court, or any other executive/legislative/judicial entity do not relieve parents of their legal obligations to comply with timesharing and other provisions in the parenting plans, including transportation”
- Parents should try to work out issues: Consider the best and safest place for the children to be located and educated and to be with siblings, but if you can’t agree, follow the parenting plan. Parents must discuss any issue raised in a motion before bringing it to court unless discussion threatens child’s safety
- Limit Long Distance Travel: If parents can’t work out exchanges with more than 100 miles travel, the children should stay with the majority time-sharing parent until travel restrictions/shelter order are relaxed and the court may consider make-up timesharing once restrictions are relaxed
- Follow school’s official closure: Summer time-sharing starts when the school officially ends classes
- Increased Parent-Child Communication: Phone, Video Conferencing, or other electronic contact should be honored and increased and not be monitored absent an order
- Violations will be taken seriously: Strong Court Caution - Unreasonable or harmful behavior may be sanctioned – make-up time, attorney fees, costs, impact on final parenting plans will be considered
- Mission Critical Proceedings: The timetable for the Courts to return to business as usual has been extended to June 1, 2020.
- Remote Hearings and Court Events: Remote hearings may be set for emergency or expedited matters and attorneys and parties should cooperate in scheduling telephonic or electronic hearings, depositions, mediations, or other out-of-court actions
- Judges have Discretion to set hearings: Any judge who wishes to conduct a hearing outside the parameters of these Orders, is authorized to do so consistent with protocols and procedures established by the Chief Judge
- Emergency hearings are reserved for imminent harm issues: Family/Dependency emergencies are considered where imminent harm to a child is at issue, which is normally abuse, abandonment or neglect. Disagreements about time-sharing, contact, or child support rarely rise to this level.