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Florida Family Lawyer – Zoom Hearings

Originally published in the September/October 2020 edition of Res Ipsa Loquitur

Here we are in COVID month 9, and other than for certain emergency hearings or because of ADA requirements, we are still making do with zero live court hearings and mediations. For most of us, we are still rarely meeting with clients face to face. I’d be interested to attend a Clearwater Bar Family Law Section sponsored CLE (via Zoom of course) with a roundtable discussion on what is working best for everyone when meeting with clients. Zoom only? Telephone? What about video hearings? Is it best to bring your client into your office while staying distanced? What is the best way to handle evidence? What methods are most effective in dealing with a difficult witness? The word is out that criminal and civil jury trials will soon start, with smaller jury pools and other precautions, but I have not heard of a start date yet for family law hearings or trials. I personally think mediations can work well via video, as well as uncontested final hearings, case management hearings and other shorter proceedings. A complicated evidentiary hearing is another matter. I’m sure we all look forward to the day when we can return to safe in-person hearings and meetings.

Have you ever asked the court to impose a sanction (usually attorney’s fees) in a case where the other side has violated rules or ethics? Root v Feinstein, a 4th District, August of 2020 case at 45 Fla. L. Weekly D2022, illustrates the importance of giving your judge the tools with which to impose sanctions. In this case, the former wife appealed the blanket denial of her motion for temporary attorney’s fees. The circuit judge simply denied her motion, due to her misconduct in accessing the private emails of her former husband. The court should have made express findings setting forth the amount of reasonable fees and costs resulting from the misconduct during the modification proceedings. Presumably, the judge would have made the findings had the court been presented with evidence of additional fees incurred because of the misconduct. This could have been easily accomplished through testimony by the former husband’s attorney and possibly the former husband. As always, preparation and thoroughness is key.

Family Lawyers useful word of the month: Jejune – adjective. Naïve, simplistic and superficial. Short on worthwhile content. “Your Honor, thank you for the opportunity to respond to learned counsel’s jejune argument.”

Scott E. Schiltz practices family law in Dunedin, is acting co-editor of Res Ipsa, is chair of the Clearwater Bar Association 90th Anniversary Committee, and is a past president of Clearwater Bar Association. He can be reached at

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