The Honorable Bertila Soto, Chief Judge of the Miami-Dade Courts, has issued Administrative Order (AO) 20-06 A1, amending AO 20-06. The AOs establish parenting protocols for families with cases in the Family and Unified Children’s Court Divisions while the Miami-Dade Courts are under emergency operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the guidance of the Florida Supreme Court and public health and government authorities in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus disease COVID-19, the Miami-Dade Courts have been closed for in-person court proceedings since March 16, 2020. Exceptions are emergency or mission critical hearings and non-emergency hearings that may be conducted remotely via telephone or video technology.
In order to reduce the need for “emergency” filings and hearings in Family and Unified Children’s Court during this time, AO 20-06 A1 amends AO 20-06 and establishes parenting responsibility and time-sharing protocols and provides important information on court procedures and requirements in these matters.
- The protocols instruct parents to continue to comply with all court orders and rules and perform their duties and responsibilities of co-parenting, as well as share the additional responsibilities of parenting through this time.
- Time-sharing should continue as set forth in their Parenting Plans, unless both parents agree in writing to a different time-sharing schedule on a temporary emergency basis.
- “Shelter in Place” Orders: If the Governor of Florida or any other government official issues a “shelter in place” order, where individuals are not permitted to go outside their homes for activities to obtain essentials such as food, time-sharing exchanges will be suspended until these orders are lifted.
- “Safer at Home” Orders: If the Governor of Florida or any other government official issues a “safer at home” order, where individuals are permitted to go outside their homes for activities to obtain essentials such as food, time-sharing exchanges will continue as previously ordered or agreed upon in writing by both parents.
- Time-sharing exchanges that normally took place at a child’s school or daycare facility that is currently closed due to COVID-19 should be arranged at an alternate location agreed upon by the parents in writing via email, text message or a parenting online application. If parents cannot agree on an alternate location, a motion should be filed with the presiding judge.
- Emergency Motions and Expedited Hearings: The presiding judge may set a hearing where parties are to appear remotely via telephone or video conference.
Either parent may file an emergency motion to modify or suspend time-sharing temporarily due to concerns about an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 to a child or others. The motion should address the following:
a) Current time-sharing arrangements and the Order or written Agreement establishing those arrangements
b) Who has parental responsibility for medical decisions
c) Who resides in each parent’s home, where those individuals work and whether their workplaces place them or others at risk for transmission of COVID-19
d) What precautions the parents are taking at home and in their workplaces to safeguard against transmission of COVID-19
e) What alternate arrangements can be made to allow meaningful remote contact between parent and child if the court were to grant a temporary modification or suspension of time-sharing exchanges
- Self-Represented Parties: Those who do not have an attorney and are representing themselves in the Family and Unified Children’s Court Divisions may obtain forms that have been approved by the Florida Supreme Court for filing their motions and other court matters. These forms are available at no charge by visiting the following website: https://help.flcourts.org. Once at that website, click on the icon for "Find Forms " and then click on the icon for "Family Forms."
Self-represented parties may also obtain guidance on court procedures via online chat on the Family Court Self Help Program web page (https://www.jud11.flcourts.org/Family-Court-Self-Help-Program).
On emergency matters only, self-represented parties may obtain guidance at the Family Court Self Help Program office at the Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center, 175 N.W. 1st Avenue, Room 2441, Miami, Florida 33128.
Self-represented parties are encouraged to register on the Florida Courts e-Filing Portal so they may be able to file their motions online and receive court notices via email, and they should register on courtMAP in order to schedule or receive notices of hearings.
AO 20-06 A1 contains additional important information and should be reviewed carefully by parents with cases in the Family and Unified Children’s Court Divisions.
Parents with questions about an upcoming court proceeding in their Family or Unified Children’s Court case should contact the presiding judge’s office. A judicial directory, including information on procedures of each presiding judge, is available here (https://www.jud11.flcourts.org/About-the-Court/Judges/Judicial-Directory).
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