Florida Parental Responsibility Hearings

Parental responsibility and time-sharing cases in Florida often have hearings so the judge can make decisions 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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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. It also depends on whether your hearing will take place online or at the courthouse; many hearings happen online, especially simple ones.

Expect to wait one to three months for a hearing after submitting a motion for temporary orders. Urgent issues, like requests to move with the children, 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 depend on the specifics of 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, not for deciding motions or temporary orders.

A parent can request a conference, or a judge can call a conference independently. Some judges hold them for all cases, while others hold them only for complicated or slow-moving ones.

In a conference, the judge reviews the case and can take many actions. They 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 becomes a final judgment and the case closes.


Case management conferences tend to have an informal atmosphere. If they take place in person, they're held in the judge's chambers.

Motion hearings and final hearings, on the other hand, follow formal court procedures. If they're held in person, they're in a courtroom. If yours takes place virtually, behave as formally as your would at the courthouse.

Most courts schedule motion and final hearings in blocks of time. Arrive (or log on) before the start time, but be aware that your case may not be heard until the end of the time block.

Motion hearings usually take 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.

Besides case management conferences, most hearings 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. Preparation is crucial.

If you have a lawyer, they will help you gather evidence, develop your arguments and plan your testimony. Provide them 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 Family Law 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.
  • For online hearings, practice using the video service ahead of time.
  • On hearing days, dress like you're going to a job interview.
  • Arrive early in case you have computer issues (for online hearings) or trouble finding parking (for in-person ones).
  • Don't bring new romantic partners.
  • Arrange childcare for your children.
  • 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:

The Custody X Change online app lets you create all of these in one place. It helps you prepare for every hearing that comes up in your case.

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

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