173 So.3d 19 (Fla. 2015), SC15-44, In re Amendments to Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law forms

Docket Nº:SC15-44
Citation:173 So.3d 19, 40 Fla.L.Weekly S 163
Opinion Judge:Per Curiam.
Party Name:IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT APPROVED FAMILY LAW FORMS
Judge Panel:LABARGA, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, CANADY, POLSTON, and PERRY, JJ., concur.
Case Date:March 26, 2015
Court:Supreme Court of Florida
 
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173 So.3d 19 (Fla. 2015)

40 Fla.L.Weekly S 163

IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT APPROVED FAMILY LAW FORMS

No. SC15-44

Supreme Court of Florida

March 26, 2015

         Original Proceedings -- Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Forms

          OPINION

         Per Curiam.

         Pursuant to the procedures approved by this Court in Amendments to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure & Family Law Forms, 810 So.2d 1, 14 (Fla. 2000), this Court has internally reviewed the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Forms and has determined that amendments to the existing forms are needed in light of the implementation of e-service and e-filing procedures. Input on these issues was received from the Advisory Workgroup on the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Forms, which provided valuable assistance. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.

         In general, the amendments to the forms add language explaining e-service and e-filing to the instruction sections of the forms, add e-mail as method of service to the certificate of service for forms not requiring personal service, and add information about e-service and e-filing procedures to the General Instructions for Self-Represented Litigants. Amendments are also made to several forms in response to recent Court opinions or statutory changes. Other minor amendments are made to update the "nonlawyer clause" and the certificate of service in a number of forms.

         The amended forms are hereby adopted as set forth in the appendix to this opinion, fully engrossed. The amendments to the forms shall become effective immediately and may be accessed and downloaded from the Florida State Court's website at www.flcourts.org/resources-and-services/court-improvement/problem-solving-courts/family-courts/family-law-forms.stml. By adoption of the amended forms, we express no opinion as to their correctness or applicability. We also direct that the amended forms be published for comment. Interested persons shall have sixty days from the date of this opinion to file comments with the Court.1

         It is so ordered.

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          LABARGA, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, CANADY, POLSTON, and PERRY, JJ., concur.

         INSTRUCTIONS FOR FLORIDA SUPREME COURT APPROVED FAMILY LAW FORM 12.901(b)(1), PETITION FOR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE WITH DEPENDENT OR MINOR CHILD(REN) (03/15)

         When should this form be used?

         This form should be used when a husband or wife is filing for a dissolution of marriage and you and your spouse have a dependent or minor child(ren) together or the wife is pregnant. You and/or your spouse must have lived in Florida for at least 6 months before filing for a dissolution in Florida. You must file this form if the following is true:

         o You and your spouse have a dependent or minor child(ren) together or the wife is pregnant.

         This form should be typed or printed in black ink. After completing this form, you should sign the form before a notary public or deputy clerk. You should file the original with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you live and keep a copy for your records. Because you are filing the petition in this proceeding, you may also be referred to as the petitioner and your spouse as the respondent.

         IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING E-FILING

         The Florida Rules of Judicial Administration now require that all petitions, pleadings, and documents be filed electronically except in certain circumstances. Self-represented litigants may file petitions or other pleadings or documents electronically; however, they are not required to do so. If you choose to file your pleadings or other documents electronically, you must do so in accordance with Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.525, and you must follow the procedures of the judicial circuit in which you file. The rules and procedures should be carefully read and followed.

         What should I do next?

         For your case to proceed, you must properly notify your spouse of the petition. If you know where he or she lives, you should use personal service. If you absolutely do not know where he or she lives, you may use constructive service. You may also be able to use constructive service if your spouse resides in another state or country. However, if constructive service is used, other than granting a divorce, the court may only grant limited relief, which cannot include either spousal support (alimony) or child support. For more information on constructive service, see Notice of Action for Family Cases with Minor Child(ren), Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.913(a)(2), and Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.913(b). If your spouse is in the military service of the United States, additional steps for service may be required. See, for example, Memorandum for Certificate of Military Service, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.912(a) and Affidavit of Military Service, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.912(b). In sum, the law regarding constructive service and service on an individual in the military service is very complex and you may wish to consult an attorney regarding these issues.

         If personal service is used, your spouse has 20 days to answer after being served with your petition. Your case will then generally proceed in one of the following three ways:

         DEFAULT. If after 20 days, your spouse has not filed an answer, you may file a Motion for Default, Florida Supreme

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Court Approved Family Law Form 12.922(a), with the clerk of court. Then, if you have filed all of the required papers, you may call the clerk, family law intake staff, or judicial assistant to set a final hearing. You must notify your spouse of the hearing by using a Notice of Hearing (General), Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.923, or other appropriate notice of hearing form.

         UNCONTESTED. If your spouse files an answer that agrees with everything in your petition or an answer and waiver, and you have complied with mandatory disclosure and filed all of the required papers, you may call the clerk, family law intake staff, or judicial assistant to set a final hearing. You must notify your spouse of the hearing by using a Notice of Hearing (General), Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.923, or other appropriate notice of hearing form.

         CONTESTED... If your spouse files an answer or an answer and counterpetition, which disagrees with or denies anything in your petition, and you are unable to settle the disputed issues, you should file a Notice for Trial, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.924, after you have complied with mandatory disclosure and filed all of the required papers. Some circuits may require the completion of mediation before a final hearing may be set. You should contact the clerk, family law intake staff, or judicial assistant for instructions on how to set your case for trial (final hearing). If your spouse files an answer and counterpetition, you should answer the counterpetition within 20 days using an Answer to Counterpetition, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.903(d).

         Where can I look for more information?

         Before proceeding, you should read General Information for Self-Represented Litigants found at the beginning of these forms. The words that are in bold underline in these instructions are defined there. For further information, see chapter 61, Florida Statutes.

         IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING E-SERVICE ELECTION

         After the initial service of process of the petition or supplemental petition by the Sheriff or certified process server, the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration now require that all documents required or permitted to be served on the other party must be served by electronic mail (e-mail) except in certain circumstances. You must strictly comply with the format requirements set forth in the Rules of Judicial Administration.

         SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS MAY SERVE DOCUMENTS BY E-MAIL; HOWEVER, THEY ARE NOT REQUIRED TO DO SO. If a self-represented litigant elects to serve and receive documents by e-mail, the procedures must always be followed once the initial election is made.

         To serve and receive documents by e-mail, you must designate your e-mail addresses by using the Designation of Current Mailing and E-mail Address, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.915, and you must provide your e-mail address on each form on which your signature appears. Please CAREFULLY read the rules and instructions for: Certificate of Service (General), Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.914; Designation of Current Mailing and E-mail Address, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.915; and Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516.

Page 22         Special notes...

         If you do not have the money to pay the filing fee, you may obtain an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status from the clerk, fill it out, and the clerk will determine whether you are eligible to have filing fees deferred.

         If you want to keep your address confidential because you are the victim of sexual battery, aggravated child abuse, aggravated stalking, harassment, aggravated battery, or domestic violence, do not enter the address, telephone, and fax information at the bottom of this form. Instead, file aRequest for Confidential Filing of Address, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.980(h)....

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