The 13th Judicial Circuit in Tampa issued an administrative order outlining the way that the current closures for COVID-19 will affect the administration of justice. I have outlined the important points of the order to make it easier to understand.
- Currently the 13th Circuit is in Phase II as defined by the Florida Supreme Court.
- Phase II: limited in-person contact is authorized for certain purposes and/or requires use of protective measures;
- This means that the court may have some in person hearings with certain protective measures in place such as masks, social distancing and sanitization procedures.
- The court in Tampa has defined “limited” to authorize only hold in person court for cases deemed “mission critical”.
- The administrative order issued on March 27, 2020 does not identify dissolution of marriage or custody cases as mission critical unless there is an issue of safety or imminent danger.
- In the meantime, the family law court will conduct business via zoom or teleconference.
- That means, there is no real delay. Family cases will continue to be moved through the system, the only difference being that court appearances will not be held in person until we move to Phase III.
Understanding this is the case, if you are considering filing for divorce, there is no need to wait or worry if your divorce case will take longer than usual due to the pandemic.
If anything, the family court is busier than ever. It may be the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing tensions in marriages, especially when a couple is spending much more time together than they would normally due to safer at home orders, and shutdowns.
If you are considering a divorce, contact my office so we can discuss your next steps.