FL Parental Responsibility Hearings: How to Prepare

Parental responsibility and time-sharing cases in Florida often have hearings so the judge can decide temporary or urgent issues and order next steps.

At a hearing, you have the opportunity to make requests and present information to the judge.

To help ensure consistency, Florida requires the same judge to preside over all your hearings, as well as your trial, if applicable.

In some counties, parents who represent themselves have their cases heard by a general magistrate. A magistrate has the same decision-making powers as a judge, but their final judgment must be approved by a judge within 10 days of issuance.

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Scheduling

When you file a motion that requires a hearing, the court clerk will help you with scheduling. A judge can order a hearing without a motion, as well.

Scheduling depends on the hearing's purpose, the judge's calendar and the discovery process for any necessary documents. Expect to wait one to three months for a hearing after submitting a motion for temporary orders. Urgent issues like relocation requests are addressed more quickly.

Motions for protection against domestic violence follow a distinct process. Often the court will immediately grant the order on a temporary basis, then schedule a hearing to decide whether to extend it.

Failure to appear at a required hearing can have negative consequences, including contempt of court charges.

Types of hearings

The types of hearings you'll have depends on your case.

Motion hearings

At a motion hearing, parents present evidence and argue their side of a specific issue, usually testifying under oath and answering questions from the judge.

Motion hearings are used to issue temporary orders. The judge may also order parents to do something, like confirm paternity, before the case can proceed.

Case management conferences

Case management conferences are for dealing with administrative matters, and not for deciding motions or temporary orders.

A party can request a conference or a judge can call one without prompting. Some judges hold them for all cases, while others hold them only for complicated or slow-moving ones.

In the conference, the judge reviews the case and can take many actions. He or she might set a mediation date, resolve evidence disputes, enforce discovery requirements, schedule motion hearings, appoint a guardian ad litem, order a social investigation and more.

Final hearings

When parents file a settlement, some judges require a final hearing to approve or reject it. Other judges make their decisions behind the scenes.

When a final hearing is required, the petitioner (who filed the case) must attend; the respondent can attend but is not typically required to.

The judge will review the settlement and may ask questions of parents or lawyers. Once the judge signs the agreement, it is a final judgment, and the case is closed.

Procedures

Because case management conferences usually take place in the judge's chambers, they tend to have an informal atmosphere.

Motion hearings and final hearings, on the other hand, take place in a courtroom and follow typical court procedures.

Most courts schedule these hearings in blocks of time. When your case is called, you and your lawyer go to the front of the room. For motion hearings, the other parent does the same. For final hearings, only the petitioner must attend.

Motion hearings are usually allotted 30 to 60 minutes each, while final hearings can take only a few minutes. Parents are sworn in as witnesses, so everything they say is under oath.

In a motion hearing, the parent who filed the motion (or their lawyer) makes a statement and presents evidence. Then, the other parent presents their side. All evidence must follow the Florida Evidence Code.

In all types of hearings, the judge may ask questions, which parents or their lawyers answer. The judge then announces the decisions.

Most hearings, besides case management conferences, are open to the public. Discuss confidentiality concerns with your lawyer or the court clerk.

Preparing for hearings

Decisions made at hearings can have far-reaching effects on you, your children and your case. Effective preparation is crucial.

If you have a lawyer, they will help you gather evidence, develop your arguments and plan your testimony. Provide your attorney with everything they request and always be honest with them so they can best represent you.

If you're representing yourself, prepare as thoroughly as a lawyer would. Review the judge's courtroom rules, the Florida Rules of Procedure and expectations for courtroom behavior.

Also, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Before your hearing date, observe a hearing with your judge.
  • On hearing days, dress like you're going to a job interview or to church.
  • Arrive early to find to parking, go through security and locate the courtroom.
  • Don't bring your children.
  • Friends and family can sit in the gallery, but don't bring new romantic partners.
  • Always refer to the judge or magistrate as “Your Honor.”
  • Show respect to everyone, and never interrupt.
  • Ask for clarification if you don't understand something.
  • When answering questions, take your time, but don't ramble or go off topic.
  • Give your answer truthfully, and only explain your reasoning if prompted.
  • Control your emotions; the judge can charge you with contempt if you're disruptive.
Using technology for your hearing

The evidence you'll need to prepare for a hearing depends on the topic being considered.

You may want to present a log of interactions with the other parent, a calendar showing when you care for your child, a list of child-related expenses and beyond.

The Custody X Change app lets you create and manage all of these elements in one place. In Florida, you can use the app in many ways to prepare for hearings that come up in your case.

Take advantage of custody technology to get what's best for your children.

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules you can present at your court hearing.

Make My Florida Plan Now

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules you can present at your court hearing.

Make My Plan
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Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules you can present at your court hearing.

Make My Florida Plan Now

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