Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Issues A New Emergency Temporary Standing Order Regarding Child Custody During the Covid-19 Pandemic

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Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Issues A New Emergency Temporary Standing Order Regarding Child Custody During the Covid -19 Pandemic

The 14th Judicial Circuit which consists of Bay, Holmes, Washington, Jackson and Calhoun County has issued a new standing order regarding child custody and time sharing. This has been an unaddressed question in the Circuit and has been the source of many questions and concerns. The family law attorneys at our firm have been inundated with questions regarding child custody issues during this pandemic and have been diligently monitoring Executive Orders, Supreme Court Orders, and Circuit Court Orders to bring our clients reliable information during this time.

Which Cases does the Emergency Temporary Standing Order Regarding Child Custody During the Covid -19 Pandemic Apply To?

  1. This Order is intended for all family law matters regarding parental responsibility and time-sharing, to be utilized and complied with immediately in all existing and newly filed Domestic Relations cases in all counties of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit. However, this Order shall not supersede or modify any existing domestic violence injunction or criminal "no contact" order which is in conflict with these provisions.(emphasis added)
  2. This Order does not preclude a Judge from modifying or amending this Order in individual cases where the Judge deems necessary. Any part of this Order not changed by a subsequent order shall remain in effect.

What Does the Order State Regarding Existing Child Custody Court Orders?

  1. All parties are expected to follow all current Final Judgments, Temporary Orders, Settlement Agreements, or other orders of the court awarding parental responsibility or time-sharing (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Orders of the Court"). That means that if Orders of the Court define timesharing pursuant to a school calendar, the parties must follow the calendar as published and not any adjustments to the calendar because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. In most circumstances, following the Orders of the Court is consistent with Executive Order 20-91. However, if a party believes that compliance with the Orders of the Court, violates Executive Order 20-91, the parties are instructed to follow the emergency procedures detailed in Section Ill, below.
  3. Unless otherwise prohibited by the Orders of the Court, each parent is prohibited from unreasonably restricting access of the child(ren) to the other parent.
  4. Exchanges that were to take place at a child(ren)'s school or daycare that is not currently open should be arranged between the parents in writing by email, text, or parenting app. In the event the parents cannot agree on an alternate arrangement, the exchanges shall take place at the police station or sheriff’s office that is located closest to the school or daycare. The closest police station or sheriff’s office shall be determined by the distance shown on Google Maps, Apple Maps, or some other similar mapping program or website.
  5. Video-conferencing and phone contact shall be honored as set forth in the parties' Parenting Plan. Unless previously ordered, video and phone contact should not be monitored or interrupted by the co-parent or any other third party, unless there are specific Orders of the Court in place as to those issues.

What Emergency Procedures are Available Regarding Child Custody Issues Related to Covid-19?

  1. Parents are strongly cautioned that unreasonable, hurtful, or destructive behavior may be severely and harshly sanctioned by the court, and the non-offending parent may be awarded significant make up time, including summer and consecutive major holidays. The Court may award attorney’s fees and costs and/or sanctions for a party's unreasonable behavior. Such actions may also impact the Court's long-term decision for timesharing pursuant to the Chapter 61 factors to determine a Parenting Plan in the best interest of the child(ren).
  2. Any party may file a motion to address adherence to the Orders of the Court. The judges of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit are committed to promptly addressing emergency matters pertaining to timesharing related to this public health crisis.
  3. Motions filed as "emergency" motions must be served on the other parent pursuant to the rules of procedure. The Court may require a written response from the other party. The Court may also rule upon the papers without a hearing. The moving party should submit a proposed order in Word format for the Court's consideration.
  1. If upon review of the written filings, the Court determines that a hearing is necessary, the Court may set a hearing at which the parties, and/or counsel, will be required to appear remotely. The Court expects all parties and attorneys to cooperate in the scheduling of telephonic or electronic hearings.

What Effect has Covid-19 Had on Contempt and Writs of Bodily Attachments Due to Covid-19?

  1. Law enforcement agencies, criminal justice authorities and the courts instituted substantial measures to reduce the number of people incarcerated. During this health crisis, judges are directed not to issue writs of bodily attachment for contempt hearings related to nonpayment of child support or alimony. Nothing in this Order prohibits a judge from ordering other measures to obtain compliance with a court order.

Call Our Child Custody Lawyers at The Virga Law Firm's Panama City Office Today

If you or a loved one is facing a child custody issue in this trying time, please feel free to call our office today. During this pandemic, we are offering free video and telephonic consultations. Call our office today at 850-818-0236. We also have offices located in Pensacola, Fort Walton, Navarre and Orlando for your convenience.

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