COVID-19 Updates

In response to the public concern of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and social distancing advisements, Polk County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller Stacy M. Butterfield announces changes to clerk-related services.


Clerk Office Closed to the Public, Remote Services Available

Effective Friday, March 20, the Clerk’s offices are closed to the public except for essential services and any services that can be done online, by telephone, or by electronic means. This affects all those seeking walk-in services. The offices will remain closed until further notice.

Due to an extremely high volume of calls, our call center will stop taking new calls starting at 4 p.m. in order to answer all calls waiting in the queue before closing time at 5 p.m. We thank you for your patience during this time and look forward to assisting you.

 

Remote services that are still available to the public include:

  • Pay a traffic ticket (online or by phone)
  • Electronically record mortgages, deeds, and other official records (online, for repeat filers only, such as contractors, attorneys, title companies, closing agents, etc.)
  • File court documents electronically (online)
  • Electronically view court records, official records, and request certified copies (online)
  • Check your jury status or request excusals and postponements (online or by phone)
  • Check the status of court proceedings (by phone)
  • Set up payment plans (by phone only)
  • Electronically pay child support and alimony (online)
  • Sign up to receive text and/or email alerts about court dates (online at enotify.flcourts.org)
  • Mail traffic school completion certificates to P.O. Box 9000, Drawer CC-10, Bartow, FL 33831-9000

Clerk Drop Desk for Document Processing

We are offering a Clerk Drop Desk at the Bartow courthouse for document processing. Please be advised that there will be NO Drop Desk at the Winter Haven or Lakeland courthouses. This drop point serves as a place where customers provide us with the documents that they need to be processed, such as Notice of Commencements.  Once processed, we will return the documents to the customer by mail or make available for retrieval at the Clerk Drop Desk.

Keeping with social distancing advisements, a six-foot distance will be maintained between Clerk staff and customers. We ask that customers who use this option to please follow these steps:

  1. Customers will drop off their documents at the designated Clerk Drop Desk in the Bartow couthouse location only.
  2. Please attach a cover letter that describes the matter of your business. Also, please provide us with your contact information: name, telephone number, email and mailing address for where documents should be returned to.
  3. Note in your letter if you need a certified copy immediately. We will call you when the copy is ready, and you can come back to the Clerk Drop Desk to retrieve it.
  4. If applicable, payments must be made by check, cashier’s check, or money order to Polk County Clerk of Courts. Please include any applicable account numbers on your cover letter.

Please note, the Chief Judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit has ordered that “Any person, regardless of status, who is exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or any person who has knowingly been in contact with another person who is suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 virus, is prohibited from entering any court facility. Court Bailiffs and local Sheriff Deputies are hereby granted the authority to screen and eject persons from courtrooms, courthouses, or court facilities in accordance with this Administrative Order.”


Court Hearing Updates

For more details about court cancellations and scheduling, contact the 10th Judicial Circuit or go to their website at http://www.jud10.flcourts.org/.

 The Honorable Ellen S. Masters, Chief Judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit, released Administrative Order1-53.0 that addresses emergency court operations related to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

This Administrative Order shall be effective immediately and shall remain in effect until further notice or until superseded by further order of this Court or the Florida Supreme Court.

The changes for Polk County courts are as follows:

Non-Essential Proceedings Suspended / Essential Proceedings are not Suspended

No proceedings or other court events other than essential proceedings and proceedings critical to the state of emergency or public health emergency shall be conducted through in-person hearings until such time as the public health emergency is resolved, or as provided by subsequent order.

Essential proceedings include, but are not limited to:

  • First appearance
  • Criminal arraignments, as necessary
  • Hearings on motions to set or modify monetary bail for individuals who are in custody
  • Juvenile dependency shelter hearings
  • Juvenile delinquency detention hearings
  • Hearings on petitions for temporary injunctions relating to safety of an individual
  • Hearings on petitions for risk protection orders
  • Hearings on petitions for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian
  • Hearings to determine whether an individual should be involuntarily committed under the Baker Act or the Marchman Act
  • Hearings on petitions for extraordinary writs as necessary to protect constitutional rights
  • Critical proceedings related to the state of emergency or the public health emergency, include, but are not limited to proceedings related to:
  • Violation of quarantine or isolation
  • Violation of orders to limit travel
  • Violation of orders to close public or private building
  • Enforcement of curfew orders

Misdemeanor and Felony Cases

  • All jail transports for jail arraignments and jail VOP arraignments are suspended. In the event that the assigned judge determines that the inmate’s presence is required, the proceeding may be postponed for no more than 24-hours to have the inmate transported.
  • Criminal court pretrial conferences and street arraignments are suspended and shall be rescheduled to a date no sooner than April 20, 2020.
  • Criminal court status conferences are suspended until further order of the Court.
  • Felony jail arraignments in Polk County will be conducted on Tuesdays in the afternoon using video equipment in Courtroom 8E.
  • Misdemeanor jail arraignments in Polk County will be conducted on Fridays in the morning using video equipment in Courtroom 8E.
  • VOP first appearance hearings in Polk County will be combined with other first appearance hearings and will be conducted using video equipment in Courtroom 8E.
  • Hearings on motions to set or modify release conditions for individuals who are in jail in Polk County will be conducted using video equipment in Courtroom 8E or the courtroom designated by Court Administration.

Juvenile Dependency Cases:

  • Shelter hearings must not be postponed. However, shelter hearings may be handled by telephone if deemed appropriate by the assigned judge. The presence of children at shelter hearings is waived through March 27, 2020.
  • Judicial reviews, motion hearings, and other dependency hearings shall be postponed unless the assigned judge determines that the named proceeding may take place using remote technology such that no in-person communication occurs. Postponed hearings shall not be rescheduled to occur before April 20, 2020.

Juvenile Delinquency Cases:

  • Due to ongoing efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the April 13 Juvenile Delinquency Collection Enforcement Court Hearing has been rescheduled to June 8 at 9 a.m.
  • Delinquency detention hearings must not be continued. However, detention hearings may be by telephone, if deemed appropriate by the assigned judge.
  • Transport of juveniles for delinquency detention hearings is suspended. The juvenile will appear telephonically unless the assigned judge determines that the juvenile’s presence is critical for the proceeding.
  • Risk Protection Orders (RPOs): RPO proceedings must not be suspended. However, the final hearing may be postponed by the assigned judge in those instances where legally appropriate. Further, compliance hearings may be postponed to the final hearing if the assigned judge deems such continuance of a compliance hearing to be necessary.
  • Baker Acts: Baker Act proceedings must not be suspended. However, the presiding judicial officer shall take necessary steps to practice social distancing in order to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19. In the event that a hearing must be held concerning whether an individual must be involuntarily committed, such hearings may take place at hospitals or by telephone if deemed appropriate by the judicial officer.
  • Marchman Act: In the event that a hearing must be held concerning whether an individual, including a juvenile, must be involuntarily committed, such hearings may take place by telephone if deemed appropriate by the judicial officer. The judicial officer shall take necessary steps to practice social distancing in order to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19.

Domestic Relations and Civil Cases:

  • The public will be permitted access to the offices of the Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller in order to file petitions for temporary injunctions pursuant to Chapter 741 (domestic violence) and Chapter 784 (dating, stalking, repeat, and sexual violence).
  • Hearings on petitions for temporary injunctions pursuant to Chapter 741 (domestic violence) and Chapter 784 (dating, stalking, repeat, and sexual violence) will be held telephonically if deemed appropriate by the assigned judge or in a courtroom determined by Court Administration.
  • Scheduled domestic relations and civil proceedings that have not been deemed critical by the assigned judge shall be continued. However, if an assigned judge has coordinated hearings that do not involve in-person contact, then those hearings may occur without delay.

Appointment of Emergency Guardian

All hearings on petitions for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian may be by telephone if deemed appropriate by the assigned judge.

Problem Solving Court

All hearings in Problem Solving Court cases (Felony PADC; Misdemeanor PADC; Juvenile Drug Court; Young Adult Drug Court; DUI; Behavioral Health Court; and Veteran’s Court) are continued until April 20, 2020.

Other Proceedings

All other proceedings not referenced herein must not occur in-person; however, the assigned judge or judicial officer may conduct any proceedings by electronic communication as long as the parties or their counsel have the technical capacity to do so.

Court Facility Access

Public access to court facilities is limited to litigants or court participants. Spectators and family members who are not court participants may not attend proceedings until emergency conditions pass.

Any person, regardless of status, who is exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or any person who has knowingly been in contact with another person who is suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 virus, is prohibited from entering any court facility. Court Bailiffs and local Sheriff Deputies are hereby granted the authority to screen and eject persons from courtrooms, courthouses, or court facilities in accordance with this Administrative Order.


Jury Duty

Jury duty is suspended through April 17. Anyone called for jury duty during these dates SHOULD NOT report for duty.

Please note, the Clerk’s office will continue to mail out summons to avoid delay to future court processes once the suspension of all jury trials is lifted. Jurors summoned to report for future dates beyond April 17 should still proceed as directed. However, it’s possible that additional cancellations will occur. Updates will be shared on www.polkcountyclerk.net, the Juror Hotline 863-534-4582, the Polk County Clerk Facebook page, and through notifications to the media.

 


Foreclosure Sales

All foreclosure sales are canceled through April 20. Please check back with the Clerk’s office in a few weeks for a new sale date.

Clarification: Only foreclosure sales are canceled, foreclosure hearings are NOT canceled.


Marriage/Passports

Marriage

Marriage license applications are now reinstated at the Bartow Courthouse only.

This is a time of crisis and we’re finding that marriage license services are needed by many due to change-of-life events that have been taking place, like deployment, job changes, etc. We’ve had people reach out to us with these situations requesting help, so we established a procedure that we feel enables us to reinstate the service for anyone seeking a license while maintaining appropriate safety measures.

The following procedures will be used during the COVID-19 closure:

  1. Couples must call to make an appointment at 863-534-4000. Appointments are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

  1. While making the appointment via telephone, you need to have the following information for both parties:
    1. Names
    2. Addresses
    3. Phone numbers
    4. Dates of Birth
    5. Birthplaces (State or Foreign Country)
    6. Social Security numbers
    7. Number of marriages
    8. Date last marriage ended (Month/Day/Year), reason (divorce, death, etc.)
    9. Maiden name
    10. Does couple have minor child or children in common born in the State of Florida

  1. At time of appointment, the couples will need to have the following for both individuals:
    1. IDs – either a Driver’s License or Passport
    2. Premarital Course Certificate, if applicable

  1. The Clerk’s office is not performing ceremonies and only the two individuals applying for the license are permitted in to the building.

*Please note, all customers who enter the building undergo a verbal health screening prior to being permitted to enter.

 

Passports

In alignment with the U.S. Department of State’s closure of passport agencies, the Clerk’s office is suspending passport application services.


Protection Orders/Probate

Injunction for Protection Procedures

We have established new procedures for those seeking an Injunction for Protection during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. These procedures will help to protect the public and Clerk staff by limiting the amount of in-person contact needed to file an injunction. Visit the Domestic Violence page for full details.

Probate

Info will be available soon.