If you currently have a pending legal matter during Covid-19 then most assuredly, you have already been informed, either by the Court or an attorney, that Covid-19 will likely cause a delay in your legal case. In some areas of law, that may not be a big deal, such as where a large bank has their foreclosure case against a homeowner delayed, but in other areas of the law, such delays can have very real and long-lasting implications. One of these areas of law is family law. While most Courts throughout the state remain open in some capacity, some courts are only hearing emergency matters, so if you had a hearing or trial cancelled as a result of Covid-19, you may be wondering how and when your case will move forward.
While each county in Central Florida is taking slightly different approaches, many Courts in Orange and Osceola Counties remain open to hear family law disputes, however, the ways in which those hearings are being conducted are changing rapidly. Many courts throughout the state are now utilizing video conferencing capabilities, whether it be through Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex or another video conferencing platform, and the Court has adjusted, on the fly, in order to try to keep cases moving.
In trying to provide parents some guidance during these uncertain times, local Courts are issuing temporary orders during Covid-19 addressing timesharing issues. Some Courts have ordered that regularly scheduled timesharing should try proceed as normal, with each parent being reminded to be more cognizant of additional precautions that may need to be taken during exchanges. Other Courts have taken a more strict approach to ensuring that stay-in-place orders remain adhered to by permitting a parent with majority timesharing to keep the children until such stay-in-place orders are lifted. In that scenario, the parent who is being denied in-person visitation should receive more frequent telephone and video vitiations while the stay-in-place orders remain in effect, and it is also likely in many cases that a parent who is denied timesharing as a result of Covid-19 will be awarded make-up timesharing to make up for any time that they may have lost with their children. In fact, there are local orders that state if a Court finds that a parent may have been unreasonably withholding access and contact with a child during Covid-19, then the rules of contempt would still apply and it’s possible that parent could be held in contempt of court for unreasonably restricting access and timesharing.
If you have questions about access to your children and timesharing during Covid-19 you will want to contact a family law attorney who is familiar with the many Administrative Orders coming out from the Florida Supreme Court and local courts to ensure you know how your specific county is dealing with timesharing issues during these uncertain times. If you feel that you are being denied reasonable access, or are not sure how timesharing should proceed for your family, it may be necessary to contact a family law attorney in order to ensure you are complying with Court orders and taking the necessary steps to keep your children protected from Covid-19.
Attorney Russell J. Frank is a partner at CPLS, P.A. and focuses his practice areas on family and marital law. Contact Attorney Frank today at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any family or marital legal issues you may be experiencing.
DEFENDING COMMERCIAL EVICTIONS DURING COVID-19/CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
Small businesses, perhaps more than any other enterprises, have been slammed hard by the present abrupt, catastrophic economic decline. Landlords holding leases on the premises where the vast majority of small business entrepreneurs operate are serving, or threatening to serve, eviction notices.
Due to the combination of “stay at home” directives and general fear of contracting the deadly Covid-19/coronavirus, in-person customers for goods and services have dropped to near zero. The inevitable consequence is inability of small business owners to meet the financial demands of their lease. It is not uncommon for the leases under which small business owners operate to not contain any reference to anything other than eminent domain or fire damage as justification for nonpayment of rent. In leases prepared prior to the business conditions which now exist, little, or no, attention has been given to what is now upon us, an economic disaster of proportions not seen since the Great Depression between 1929 and 1939.
BUT THERE IS HOPE!
We at CPLS, P.A. (The Center For Professional Legal Services) have taken the initiative for our clients. Although there is a paucity of Florida law addressing “economic disaster” as an affirmative defense in an action for breach of contract we have found some cases which should be of help in establishing such defense in light of today’s economic conditions.
The affirmative defense of impossibility of performance has been defined as
“…(referring) to those factual situations, too numerous to
catalogue, where the purposes, for which the contract was
made, have, on one side, become impossible to perform.”
A major issue inherent in the “impossibility” defense is lack of foreseeability of the event upon which reliance is made. In Florida, hurricanes of certain intensities and cyclical declines in real estate values have been held to be foreseeable events in existence at the inception of the contract, thus defeating the “impossibility” defense.
The root cause of the crash of commercial inactivity is a combination of widespread fear of contracting a deadly, highly contagious, viral disease for which there is no known cure coupled with governmental directives for the general public to self-quarantine in an effort to prevent proliferation of the disease. I suggest it is safe to argue the ensuing nationwide near total discontinuance of traditional economic activity was not foreseeable.
The concept of force majeure is not to be confused with “Act of God”. Act of God means “…only an unforeseeable act exclusively occasioned by the violence of nature without interference of any human agency.” A force majeure is “(a)n event or effect that the parties could not have anticipated or controlled.” Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Editiion1999.
Reservation of “Act of God” as an affirmative defense for nonperformance must be contained in the underlying contract in order to be available. It appears as though, in the absence of express exclusion in the underlying contract, force majeure is more likely to be successful.
It would seem Hurricane Andrew, which swept through Florida in 1992, qualifies as an act of God as contrasted with the huge earthquake which occurred in Haiti., the latter being more clearly a force majeure.
For further information or answers to your questions, contract Attorney
J. Leonard Fleet, Esq. at email@example.com