There is no question that the corona virus pandemic has brought large parts of our society to a complete standstill, both locally and throughout the world. A frequent request from clients has been to assess the effect of the response to the virus on pending or anticipated family law cases in South Florida.
To begin, the courts in Florida are generally closed to in-person appearances. Except for limited matters, such as domestic violence cases, certain criminal proceedings, and the submission of agreed orders/judgments, the courthouse is essentially closed until further notice. In Miami-Dade County, the closures may last until June 1st. Some court systems are utilizing zoom to facilitate certain hearings. But the system remains ad hoc at present. Note that cases and related pleadings (motions, affidavits, and the like) can still be e-filed with the Clerks of Courts throughout the state. The Florida supreme court is carefully monitoring the progress of the pandemic and issuing administrative orders as needed to match the requirements for public health and safety.
A key question from clients centers on when relief from the judge in their case can be anticipated. Understandably, family law matters are stressful by their nature and the prospect of months-long delays in resolving cases only adds to the frustration and anxiety. My law office has been able to proceed with collaborative family law cases and even mediations successfully utilizing zoom.
Of course, the best results during the pandemic can be obtained when the parties to a case and their respective attorneys are cooperative and willing to compromise during the unavailability of the courts. We have seen an increase in cooperation particularly between parents in split families. However, the pandemic with its requirement for relative social isolation and the ‘stay-at-home’ mandates has increased the pressure on families already tested by pending divorces and other legal conflicts.
The only advice that can be offered at this uncertain time is to realize that the pandemic will abate in time and our society will begin to rebuild after the isolation is over. We must be willing to cooperate and practice flexibility as never before even through the difficult experience of family dissolution.