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Sarasota/Manatee Courts Issue COVID-19 Parenting Procedures

Twelfth Circuit Chief Judge Kimberly C. Bonner last week signed an Administrative Order on Parenting Procedures in the Family Division During COVID-19 Pandemic.  The Administrative Order covers divorce and parenting/custody matters in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties.

In essence, the Administrative Order directs parents to follow any parenting plan that has been established and cooperate in making alternate arrangements if exchanges were to take place at now-closed schools or daycare.  If a parenting plan has not yet been established, the Order directs parents to permit and facilitate access of children to the other parent. The Administrative Order reads, in part, as follows:

WHEREAS, the World Health Organization has declared the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic, the Governor of Florida has declared a state of emergency exists, and the Surgeon General and State Health Officer have declared a public health emergency exists, and the Florida State Courts must take steps to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on legal proceedings and participants in those legal proceedings; and

WHEREAS, since March 17,2020, the Florida Supreme Court has issued various Emergency Administrative Orders found at https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/Emergency , which include ordering the cancellation or postponement of all non-essential in-person hearings, and this court entered Administrative Order 2020-4.2, setting forth COVID-19 Emergency Procedures and Mission Essential Functions; and

WHEREAS, on April 1, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis entered Executive Order 20-91, referred to as a “Safer at Home” order, which orders all persons in Florida to limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities; and

WHEREAS, it is necessary to reduce the number of “emergency” filings and hearings in family division cases until non-essential in-person hearings resume; and

WHEREAS, it is in the best interests of the parties and child(ren) that parents continue to perform their duties and responsibilities of co-parenting, share the additional responsibilities of parenting through this time, and that the parties comply with all existing court orders and court rules; and

NOW THEREFORE, pursuant to the authority vested in me as Chief Judge of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit of Florida, under Rule 2.215 of the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, it is hereby ORDERED:

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Family Law Courtroom Etiquette in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties

It’s always good to make a good impression when going into a Florida Family Law Court, and one of the best ways to make a good impression is to follow proper etiquette.  Fortunately, the Twelfth Judicial Circuit has published its Rules of Etiquette for Family Law cases in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties:

1. Be aware that the judges, general magistrates, hearing officers, or any other court personnel cannot give you legal advice. You may only obtain legal advice from an attorney. You may obtain general information from the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s website at www.jud12.flcourts.org.

2. Arrive at least twenty (20) minutes before your hearing is scheduled to begin. There are unpredictable times when legal emergencies pressure the court to begin as early as possible. You should know that a judge may also dismiss your case if you are not present at the scheduled time.

3. All persons appearing before the court must dress in an appropriate manner. Shorts, hats, flip-flops, jeans, sneakers, tee shirts, and tank tops are not suitable for the courtroom.

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Many Local Courts Will Be Closed In Observance of Presidents’ Day

Most of the local courthouses will be closed on February 21, 2011, in observance of Presidents’ Day.  Closed courthouses include those located in the following judicial circuits:

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Mediation FAQs

The Twelfth Judicial Circuit of Florida (DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties) provides the following FAQs for family mediation:

What is Family Mediation?

Family Mediation is an informal meeting where the parties work out mutually agreeable settlements in Family Court cases.  Parties have the opportunity to explore options and negotiate voluntary agreements that may be submitted to the Court for approval.

Who participates?

Family Mediation provides an opportunity for parties involved in family litigation to engage in a facilitated discussion about the specific issues in their case.  Counsel for each party may attend the conference.  Other third parties may only participate if both sides agree.

What issues can be discussed?

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