COVID-19 Family Law FAQ’s

05/24/2020


Mother putting a face mask on her daughter

During this confusing new normal of living with an ongoing pandemic, navigating the new social restrictions and life changes is difficult for everyone. But for families dealing with co-parenting issues, pending divorces and other family law-related situations, life has become even more complicated. The manner in which courts are handling family law issues is evolving every day, however, there are some general questions on how coronavirus is affecting family law matters that I can try to answer.

#1 – Does a Lockdown or Stay-At-Home Order Affect My Custody/Possession Schedule?
No, the stay at home order issued in Florida does not apply to custody agreements unless you have proof of a reckless situation or if one parent is sick. As long as everyone in the family is comfortable moving forward, it is best to stick with the agreement as best as possible.

 

#2 – What If the Other Parent Lives in Another State?
Again, when possible, custody schedules should not change because of COVID-19. However, if your child usually travels by plane to see the other parent, if possible, it’s best to exercise caution by driving for now. Ideally, if both parents can agree to give the out-of-state parent “make up time” with the child after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, that may be a better solution for the time being.

 

#3 – Can I Still File for Divorce Right Now?
Yes, filing can be done electronically in Florida and most courts continue to accept new divorce or custody actions during this time. However, you won’t get a trial date until courts reopen, so if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on all divorce-related matters, then you may want to wait until restrictions are lifted.

 

#4 – What If My Divorce Is Pending? Can I Get A Divorce Right Now?
If you and your spouse can reach an agreement, most courts are accepting agreed orders. However, there are 20 judicial circuits in the state of Florida and for each circuit, there are different local rules for family court proceedings. Additionally, each family law judge in each circuit has wide latitude in how they run their dockets, and how they run their courtrooms. This means the family law judge assigned to your case is the only person who can decide whether you can have a hearing or trial in your contested case. Since there is no constitutional right to divorce, you do not have a constitutionally protected fundamental right to divorce. Therefore, your contested divorce could be delayed temporarily and indefinitely because your divorce is unfortunately considered “non-essential” at this time.

 

#5 – Are Mediations Still Happening?
Yes. If you think you may be able to reach an agreement with your spouse, many mediators are conducting mediation via Zoom or other similar apps that allow private conference rooms (password protected) to maintain attorney-client confidentiality.

 

#6 – I Lost My Job Due to COVID-19. Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support?
Yes. You still need to pay your child support. However, you may want to file a motion with the court to reduce or modify your child support obligations. If at all possible, try to work out a payment plan or alternate arrangement for child support with the other parent before you call a lawyer. If you and the other parent absolutely cannot reach an agreement, then you may need to seek court intervention.

 

#7 – How Will Stimulus Checks Be Divided Between Divorcing or Recently Divorced Spouses?
Spouses in the middle of a divorce will need to reach an agreement about the division of the stimulus, especially if the check will be deposited into an account controlled by one spouse or delivered to the formal marital residence. Inevitably, divorcing and recently divorced couples may have a dispute about how to divide the money.  In that case, it’s best to seek the advice of counsel.