General Information About Family Division Court Proceedings


What You Need to Know About ALL Court Proceedings

  • Carefully read the Rules of Courtroom Etiquette document provided to you by the court. You are expected to comply with the rules and present yourself accordingly.
  • DO NOT bring your children to the courthouse.
  • The court ALWAYS prefers both parties to attend all hearings.
  • Always read or listen to, and follow the instructions provided to you.
  • Wait outside the courtroom until the bailiff calls your name.
  • If you were told to bring your Florida Driver License, be sure to have it readily available before you go into the courtroom.
  • If the judge/magistrate should interrupt you, STOP TALKING AND LISTEN!!
  • Do not interrupt the judge, the other party, or witnesses.
  • Speak directly to the judge/magistrate.
  • Stay focused on the issues.
  • Be prepared for court!

Status Conferences and Case Management Conferences

These are short hearings before the judge/magistrate so that the court can:

  • Identify any additional documents that need to be filed;
  • Identify any conflicting issues;
  • Possibly refer the litigants to mediation to attempt to resolve the contested issues; Estimate the number of witnesses, if any, each party will call upon to testify at the final hearing;
  • Set a final hearing or trial date.

Final Hearings and Trials

To obtain a dissolution of marriage, one of the parties to the marriage must reside six months in the state before the filing of the petition. You can prove residency by doing one of the following:

  1. At the final hearing, bring a Florida Driver’s License or Florida ID card that has an issue date of at least six months prior to the date the Petition was filed. If you have recently renewed your Florida Driver’s License, the issue date will be the date the license was renewed! Look at your driver’s license prior to attending your final hearing.
  2. Bring with you to the hearing a witness who can testify in court that they know you and know that you have lived in this state for at least six months prior to the date the Petition was filed. They should also have proper Florida identification, such as a Florida Driver’s License, Florida ID, or Florida Voter Registration Card, with an issue date of at least six months prior to the date the petition was filed.
  3. File with the Clerk of Court an Affidavit of Corroborating Witness with a copy of your witness’s proper Florida identification that has an issue date of at least six moths prior to the date you the Petition was filed. If you filed for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, both you and your spouse must be present at the Final Hearing.

If you have documents that you feel will help prove your case (i.e. copies of bills, receipts, real estate legal description, etc.), you must bring them with you. But, be aware that there are evidentiary rules that may prohibit their use, so determine whether witnesses may be necessary to properly introduce these documents into evidence.

If you have witnesses you want to testify, they must be present. A subpoena should be issued to assure their presence.

Presenting Your Case

Prepare an opening statement, which is a brief statement indicating:

  • What the hearing is for (i.e. final divorce hearing, petition to modify parenting plan, etc.);
  • Whether or not an agreement has been reached;
  • What the issues are that the judge/magistrate will have to decide upon;
  • How many witnesses you will call upon to testify.

Each side will have the opportunity to present his/her case before the judge/magistrate by:

  • Submitting evidence;
  • Direct examination of witnesses;
  • Cross-examination of witnesses by opposing party 

Witnesses

  • All documents you present to the judge/magistrate and the questions that you ask the witnesses must be relevant to the issues before the court and the facts that you need to prove.
  • You can testify as your own witness.
  • You can call other individuals to be witnesses.
  • You can subpoena a witness.

Evidence

Hearsay is the legal term for any statement, verbal or non-verbal, offered as evidence that is not based on a witness's personal knowledge, but instead on another person’s statement that was not made under oath. Generally, hearsay is not admissible evidence.

Interpreters

If you need an interpreter, it is your responsibility to arrange for a competent interpreter to come to the hearing with you. The interpreter should be an adult who speaks your language and English fluently. This person cannot be a relative, spouse, or significant other, unless agreed to by the other party. If the other party objects, the interpreter must be certified. It is preferred that you use a court-approved interpreter.

The court does not provide an interpreter free of charge, except in initial proceedings for an injunction for protection. The litigant is solely responsible for paying any fees associated with the interpreter’s services. 

Obtaining Your Final Judgment

If your final hearing is before the magistrate, and neither party files an exception to the magistrate’s decision, you must wait (10) ten days from the date of your final hearing for the judge to sign a final judgment accepting the magistrate’s decision. If both parties appear at the final hearing, the parties may agree to waive the waiting period.

The petitioner must pay the Clerk of Court a filing fee of $10.50 for the clerk to record the final judgment. If the parties do not agree to waive the ten-day waiting period, your final judgment will be available at the clerk’s office two weeks after your final hearing.

Research

Because you are representing yourself in court, it is your responsibility to become familiar with the rules and laws relevant to your legal matter. Be sure you are aware of the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, Florida Statutes, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Florida Rules of Evidence. The judge, the magistrate, case managers, or other court personnel cannot give you legal advice.

You may obtain additional information and forms by visiting the Florida State Courts at www.flcourts.org:

Family law forms are also available at the Clerk’s Office in packets for a fee.