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Rules committee studies impact of pandemic on family law

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Cory BrandfonCOVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force Chair Michael Tanner didn’t have to wait long after he asked the Family Law Rules Committee to submit ideas for dealing with the health crisis.

“We’re very interested in rules changes that you folks might think are important or necessary for getting through this,” Tanner told the committee at an October 7 meeting.

Committee Chair Cory Brandfon was so eager to contribute ideas, he volunteered to join Tanner’s task force.

The committee has been studying the crisis and its impact on family law, Brandfon said.

“We have convened a COVID-19 Issues Subcommittee,” Brandfon said. “I thought it would be beneficial for you all to hear from family law practitioners.”

President Dori Foster-Morales thanked committee members for their dedication, and suggested that subcommittee expand its reach.

“You might even want it to be a joint special committee with the Family Law Section,” she said. “From a rules perspective, from a practitioner’s perspective, even though we have these silos, they really blend.”

Later in the meeting, Brandfon directed the committee to begin developing a new rule that would clarify the conditions necessary for requesting an emergency hearing.

The idea was inspired by requests for emergency hearings that flooded family courts after the pandemic struck, Brandfon said.

“There has been an issue with people applying for emergency relief,” he said. “I see a clear benefit as to providing clarity as to what is going to be considered an emergency.”

Brandfon referred to standards established by Smith v. Crider, 2DS05-5606, a Second District Court of Appeal decision from April 7, 2006.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 Issues Subcommittee is studying several proposals.

They include creating CLE on emergencies and family law, and a proposal to add provisions for natural disasters, such as hurricanes and pandemics, to standard parenting plans.

Marck Joseph“These are things that you want to discuss, or at least give the courts the authority to decide,” said committee co-chair Marck Joseph.

Subcommittee co-chair Michael Andriano said the panel plans to meet at least once a month, “until we get the issues decided.”

Eleventh Circuit Judge Victoria del Pino, who is assigned to the Family Division, said requests for emergency orders have become “a sore topic with me.”

Judges would welcome all of the emergency proposals, she said.

“I love the idea of putting some guidance in the parenting plan.”

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