TAMPA, Fla. - While civil and criminal trials are on hold, the courthouse is open and the work continues for judges handling essential court matters.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wesley Tibbals has been busy in family court, with everything from child custody matters to couples divorcing.
“Sometimes stress brings people together and sometimes it splits them up” Tibbals explained.
According to the Hillsborough Clerk’s Office, divorce filings have remained steady over the past two months. Some days they are up, some days they’re down.
But attorney Chrissie Edwards said her phone has been ringing off the hook with people looking to split up. “I am highly aware that the voice on the other end of that line is worried, frustrated and sometimes even panicked,” Edwards said.
According to Edwards, some potential clients are waiting to file until they can get a court date. However, she doesn’t think the coronavirus pandemic is causing couples to throw in the towel, but she believes relationships that were already volatile are being pushed over the edge.
“Relationships are already experiencing trouble before are breaking under the new pressures,” explained Edwards.
But the news isn’t all bad. The Hillsborough Clerk’s Office also shows the number of restraining orders or protective orders is down.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the lockdowns I just think you don’t have the opportunity to be in the presence of a person where you may have a domestic dispute,” Tibbals said.
He also thinks alcohol plays a role. “When you have bars that are closed, you have these places where people gather, things might get out-of-control there’s no opportunity for those things to take place right now,” he explained.
Edwards always advises potential clients to take a deep breath and seek help before calling it quits. “I encourage them to spend more time with their families and take advantage of the time we have right now and support one another more than ever,” she said.
If anyone you know is in a domestic violence situation The Spring of Tampa is ready to help at 813-247-7233.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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