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Tampa Bay Clerks of the Court Slow to Implement e-Filing

You may have heard of the term “paperless office,” where documents are stored on networks and hard drives rather than in physical drawers and filing cabinets.  The advantages of the paperless office over traditional means of storing documents include the following: money is saved on paper and postage; space is saved from bulky file cabinets; trees are saved from being cut down; and time is saved by quick transmittal of documents via e-mail.  This usually also translates to savings for the customer or client.

Well, the Florida Courts have set their sights on a paperless court system.  This starts out with e-filing (the filing of documents via the internet rather than dropping off paper copies).  e-Filing began through Florida’s e-Filing Portal in January 2012, and the clerks of the Court have set a goal to have all counties accepting e-filing for their civil (non-criminal) divisions through the Portal by July 1, 2012.

Many counties have been quick to implement e-filing through the Portal.  In fact, according to a presentation provided at the February 1, 2012, e-Filing Authority Board Meeting, 41 counties now accept at least some filing electronically through the portal.  Polk County is included in these counties, though it does not yet accept e-filing for family law cases.

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Hillsborough County Posts Administrative Order on “Parental Notice of Abortion Act” Cases

Hillsborough County has posted Administrative Order S-2011-046 on “Parental Notice of Abortion Act” (Florida Statutes Section 390.01114) Cases.  The administrative order, which provides a basic explanation of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, reads as follows:

The Parental Notice of Abortion Act (hereinafter “Act”), section 390.01114, Florida Statutes, provides that a termination of pregnancy may not be performed or induced upon a minor unless the physician performing or inducing the termination of pregnancy has given at least 48 hours actual notice to one parent or to the legal guardian of the pregnant minor of his or her intention to perform or induce the termination of pregnancy. The Act further provides for judicial waiver of notice to the parents or legal guardian. The court is required to give these proceedings precedence over other pending matters to the extent necessary to ensure that the court reaches a decision within three (3) business days after a petition is filed.

It is necessary for the prompt and efficient administration of justice to update the procedures for handling parental notice of abortion act cases to ensure that proceedings under this Act are handled in an expeditious manner. By the power vested in the chief judge under article V, section 2(d), Florida Constitution; section 43.26, Florida Statutes; and Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.215(b )(2), it is therefore ORDERED:

1. Filing of Petition

All petitions seeking a judicial waiver of the notice requirements of section 390.01114, Florida Statutes, will be filed in the Juvenile Dependency Division.

2. Assignment of Case

Immediately upon filing, the Clerk of the Circuit Court (hereinafter “clerk”) will assign the petition to one of the Unified Family Court divisions by using a random equitable distribution system. For purposes of this administrative order only, a Unified Family Court division is a division within any of the following subject matter divisions: Domestic Relations/Family Law, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Dependency, Juvenile Dependency Crossover and Juvenile Dependency Specialty.

Steps for Paying Florida Child Support Online – One Time Payments

The folks at the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court have made a pamphlet available explaining how to make one time child support payments online.  Below you will find the steps:

  1. Go to www.myfloridacounty.com;
  2. Click on “Pay Child Support & View Payment History;”
  3. Click “Pay Child Support Online;”
  4. On the “Add Case” screen, enter the Case Number to which the payment is being applied.  If making payments on multiple cases, each case should be added before proceeding to the next screen.  You have two options to enter the Case Number:  Read more

Hillsborough County Family Law Judges Begin Utilizing Skype

As a family law attorney, I often have clients in a Florida matter that reside outside of the state.  I recommend that clients attend their hearings in person, as it gives the judge a face to match with a voice (humanizing the client) and it allows the client to see non-verbal cues from the judge, opposing counsel, or myself.  However, there are times when an out-of-state client cannot make it to a hearing; for these times I often request that the client appear by telephone, and the judge usually grants the request.

Some of the family law judges of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (covering Hillsborough County) have announced that they are now equipped and prepared to use Skype in the Courtroom for those clients who cannot appear in person.  This program allows the client to participate in a hearing via webcam.  Though I still recommend that clients appear in person whenever possible, this technology gives a great alternative.

The following family law judges have posted procedures for Skype:

Below is an announcement for the technology posted on Judge Ward’s profile:

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Press Release: The Family Law Inn of Court of Tampa Receives National Recognition at the Supreme Court of the United States

Press Release from the Administrative Office of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Hillsborough County, Florida.

Released November 7, 2011.

Front Row, Seated L - R: Associate Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, and Judge Caroline Tesche; Standing L- R: Julia Best Chase, Judge Paul Glenn, Russell Blaine, Susan Whitaker, Judge Bernard Silver

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recognized the Family Law Inn of Court of Tampa on November 5, 2011, at an annual event that celebrated the accomplishments of several giants in the legal professions whose achievements epitomize the ideals of the American Inns of Court.  This was no small feat as the Inn launched a campaign to become a Platinum Inn within a single year.

Judge Caroline Tesche, President of the Family Law Inn of Court of Tampa, 2010, perceives this achievement as one that is of great benefit to the parties who appear before her on the bench, asserting that “family law is a contentious area of the law so anytime you have lawyers and judge participating in Inns of Court, it’s of great benefit because it raises the level of the practice of law;” adding, “we apply what we learn.”  Monthly programs generally focus on practical legal skills with an emphasis on ethics, civility and professionalism in the practice of law.  They may include demonstrations, presentations of principles, techniques, as well as relationships involved in the practice of law.  According to the judge, she can often see a difference in lawyers who have participated in Inns of Court because they are not just focused on results for their client but the family, which is contrary to what an attorney would be focused on in a civil proceeding.

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New Location for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court in Plant City

The Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court in Plant City – formerly located at 302 North Michigan Avenue, Plant City, Florida 33563 – will open up its doors at a new location on November 14, 2011.  The address of the new office is as follows:

301 North Michigan Avenue
Room 1071
Plant City, Florida 33563
 

You can view the announcement flier here.

Hillsborough County Intends to Implement e-Filing by March 2012

Members of the Florida Bar have long been making the case for e-filing, or the ability to file documents through the internet rather than filing a physical copy with the clerk of the court.  E-filing holds the promise of reducing the time and costs associated with interacting with the clerk.  The Florida Supreme Court authorized e-filing through the Florida Court’s e-filing portal, which became active for some counties on January 1, 2011.

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Judge Daniel H. Sleet Joins Hillsborough County Family Law Bench

Judge Daniel H. Sleet

Beginning November 14, 2011, Judge Daniel H. Sleet will be assigned to Division D of the Domestic Relations section of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, Florida.  Judge Sleet comes from the criminal division, where he has served since being appointed by Governor Jeb Bush in 2006.

Judge Sleet graduated from Furman University in 1984 with a B.A. in History and received his law degree at Cumberland School of Law in 1987.  He served as an Assistant State Attorney from 1987 to 1991 and was in private practice from 1991-2006.

Judge Sleet has been active in various local and national organizations, including the American Board of Trial Advocates, Hillsborough County Bar Association, and Furman Football Players Association.  Judge Sleet is also involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, South Tampa Fellowship Church, and Mitchell Elementary Dad’s Club.

Judge Sleet’s assignment to the family law division was announced in Hillsborough County Administrative Order 2011-053, signed by Chief Judge Manuel Menendez, Jr., on November 2, 2011.

What is a General Magistrate?

If you have a family law case in Florida, your matter may be referred to a general magistrate under Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.490.  But what is a general magistrate?

A general magistrate is simply an attorney appointed by the Court with the power to (i) conduct a hearing and (ii) make a recommendation to the judge on how a particular pleading or issue should be ruled on.  General magistrates keep the keep the family law system moving by taking some of the load off of the judges’ busy schedules.  In Hillsborough County, general magistrates are most commonly utilized in post-judgment cases (e.g., modification of a child support or alimony order).

If you have questions regarding a post-judgment or other family law matter and you are seeking to retain an attorney in Tampa Bay, you can schedule a consultation by calling The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or filling out our contact form.

Keep Your Contact Information Current with the Clerk of the Court, Even After Your Family Law Case is Closed

Let’s start with a simple proposition:  Each party involved in a family law case should make sure that the clerk of the court has updated contact information for that party.  It seems easy, but taking this small step could prevent big headaches in the future.

I have heard of cases where a party has moved in the middle of the case, did not inform anyone, then complained afterwards that he had not received notice of an important hearing.  I also have seen cases where a petitioner (the party initiating the case) provides the clerk with the wrong address for the respondent (the party responding to the petition), and the clerk sends information to the incorrect address for the entire duration of the case.

I have even encountered this scenario:  Parties get divorced.  In the final judgment, Husband is required to pay Wife alimony.  After the divorce, Wife moves to a different apartment in the same apartment complex.  Husband sends alimony payments to Wife’s old address, but they get delivered to the new addressed because Postal Worker knows and likes Wife (and especially the gift certificates to Best Buy that Wife gives to Postal Worker each Christmas).

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