Family Division 2 / South County Family Division 2

Requirements and Information

February 6, 2024

Maria Ruhl, Circuit Judge

Kaitlyn Averso, Judicial Assistant

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The Judge must apply the same rules to all parties, regardless of whether you have an attorney. The Judge will not talk to you about your case outside of the courtroom. Your opportunity to speak to the Judge is only during your hearing. The Judicial Assistant may not help you with your case or send information to other parties or attorneys on your behalf. The Judicial Assistant may not “give the Judge a message” or answer your legal questions. Additionally, please do not ask the Judicial Assistant for the outcome of a hearing or verify that an order has been signed; you may review Sarasota Clerk’s online docket for details about your case. Please remember anything you file with the Clerk must be provided to opposing attorney or party.

Attorneys of Record and Covering Counsel

Attorneys, including any attorneys covering hearings for counsel of record, must file a Notice of Appearance on any case in which they are filing pleadings, motions, etc. Covering Counsel must have a thorough knowledge of the case, be prepared to discuss it and have authority to make stipulations and admissions when appropriate as well as the ability to set future court hearings.

Standards of Professionalism

The Court expects all attorneys who appear to know and adhere to Administrative Order 2010-22.2, Standards of Professionalism, also found on the Sarasota County Bar Association’s website.

Mandatory Use of Document Identification Number [DIN]

The Clerk’s Office on the progress docket identifies a unique, sequential Document Identification Number [DIN] for each docket entry. Once assigned by the Clerk, the DIN does not change. Please include the DIN when referencing any filing, especially on hearing notices.

Interpreter Reservations

The responsibility for scheduling an interpreter rest solely with the person in need of interpreting services. The court does not automatically schedule interpreters. Interpretation services can be requested by telephone, email, or submission of the online request form. Each court event must be scheduled separately with the interpreter’s office. Requests for court interpreters should be made at least five (5) business days in advance of the scheduled court event. Requests made less than five (5) business days’ notice may not be accommodated. In cases where interpreting services are required for languages other than Spanish, additional time may be necessary to arrange for a qualified interpreter or a telephonic interpreting service may be used.

A. Remote Appearance

Audio-Video Communication Technology is technology that consists of electronic devices, system, applications, and platforms that permit all participants to hear, see, and speak to all other participants in real time. These devices should be stationary or “hands-free”, where all participants can be seen by the owner of the device on one screen.

1. The Court has the capability to offer Audio-Video Communication Technology (hereinafter ‘remote or remotely’) via Zoom for hearings. See Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin., 2.530. The conference participants must have a stable internet connection, a device with a video camera and two-way microphone. Please review the Twelfth Circuit’s Public Access to Court Hearings page for access to the credentials and Court’s Guidelines for Zoom Video Appearances.

2. The following proceedings will be conducted remotely:

  • Pre-Trial Conferences (PTC)
  • Case Management Conferences (CMC)
  • All non-evidentiary hearings scheduled for less than 30 minutes

3. Hearings that require a Motion to Appear Remotely:

  • 30-minutes or more, non-evidentiary hearings
  • 30-minutes or more, evidentiary hearings

4. Motion or Objection to Appear Remotely: If requesting a hearing be converted to Remote, a motion showing good cause must be filed. A copy of the Motion along with the Notice of Hearing as well as the original Motion scheduled to be heard must be served on all who are entitled notice of the proceeding, including the court. A Party may file an objection in writing to the use of communication technology within 10 days after service of the motion or within such other period as may be directed by the court.

For the court to provide ample notice to the parties and court staff, all motions and objections should be concluded no less than 3 business days prior to the hearing. Prior to submitting the related request, the time slot must be reserved, and Notice of Hearing filed.

A party waives objections by failing to timely object to the motion unless, before the date of the proceeding, the party establishes good cause for failure to timely object. The decision to authorize the use of communication technology over objection shall be in the discretion of the court.

5. Remote Testimony: The Court may allow testimony to be provided remotely if all parties consent and approved by the Court. If the parties do not stipulate, then, there shall be compliance with the requirements of Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin., 2.530(b)(2). A stipulation between the attorneys and/or pro se litigants does not automatically grant the relief requested. If approved, the court will enter an order.

6. Use of camera on Zoom. If you are authorized to appear by Zoom, you must appear with a working camera. You may not appear by telephone. This includes Court Reporters.

B. Hearing Procedures

1. File Motions: All motions must be filed with the Clerk prior to reserving hearing time.

2. Notice of Hearing: A Notice of Hearing must be filed immediately after reserving hearing time and must conform to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s Standards of Professionalism. Hearings are not permitted to be set unilaterally. You are responsible to ensure the notice of hearing contains the appropriate ADA notice and the appropriate DIN for each motion to be heard.

When drafting a Notice of Hearing for a remote hearing, you must include Judge Ruhl’s Zoom credentials. Judge Ruhl will host all Zoom events.

3. Hearings 60 Minutes or Less: All hearings 60 minutes in length or less must be scheduled using the Court’s JACS. Cases not scheduled using JACS will not be heard. Do not schedule back-to-back slots to obtain more hearing time (i.e., two back-to-back 15-minute slots to obtain 30 minutes of hearing time). This includes motions made by both parties. One case number should not take up more than one hearing slot in a standard business day. Back-to-back hearings will be canceled by the Court.

JACS: Please utilize account named “Family Division 2, Sarasota” for all North County (NC) for in-person and remote hearings. For South County (SC) Family cases, please utilize account named “Circuit H2 Ven Fam PB GA” for all in-person hearings. If time is not reflected, please submit a hearing request to the judicial assistant (see section B5 for more information). To schedule a remote hearing, please utilize account named “Family Division 2, Sarasota” and select any available Zoom slot.

4. Hearings Longer than 60 Minutes: Please contact the Court’s Judicial Assistant via email to schedule hearings requiring more than one hour. See “Requests for Hearing Time” for additional information.

5. Requests for Hearing Time: If time slots do not appear on the JACS drop down menu for hearings 60 minutes or less in length, our calendar is booked. Please check JACS daily as timely cancelations will reopen and appear on the calendar.

To request hearing time from the Court, the following information must be included in the email:

  • list of motions and DIN (motions must be attached to email)
  • agreed total length of time needed by attorneys and/or pro se litigants
  • requesting appearance (either in-person or remote) – requesting party will be notified if a further motion will be required
  • general time frame requesting the hearing to be held (ex. month)
  • if you are on a trial docket
  • other scheduled hearings for the same case with Judge or Magistrate

If all parties are not copied, the request will not be reviewed.

6. The court always has alternative, unconventional hearing time options. See section “Requests for Hearing Time” for more information and include that you are interested in the alternative, unconventional hearing time options.

7. Cross-Notice, “Piggybacks,” or Substitutions: Once a motion has been set for hearing, additional motions may not be “cross-noticed,” “piggybacked,” or substituted during the time reserved for the original motion without the express consent of opposing counsel and the court. The scheduling party should be contacted for consent before seeking the court’s approval to add additional motions.

8. Ruling Without a Hearing: Nothing precludes the parties from stipulating those matters be determined based solely on written submissions (written motions and written responses with legal analysis). Any such stipulation must be signed by all parties, filed with the clerk, and copies of all paperwork to be submitted to our office for review.

9. Canceling Hearings: You must cancel hearings using JACS. When the court’s judicial assistant has finalized the docket — approximately five days in advance of the hearing — JACS will not permit you to cancel the hearing. In that situation, please email the judicial assistant to cancel a hearing. Please indicate “Notice of Cancelation”, case number and case style in the subject line of the email (attach document). You also must immediately send notice of cancelation to opposing counsel or party, including the court.

  1. Last-minute cancelations: If a cancelation is necessary within 24-hours of the scheduled hearing, call and email the judicial assistant immediately. You will be asked to provide a copy of the Notice of Cancelation and identify the reason(s) for the cancelation (i.e. scheduling conflict or resolved outstanding issues). Please be prepared to submit a stipulation and/or order where necessary. The deadline for these documents would be the time of the original scheduled hearing.

10. Final Hearings: Any case where a Final Hearing is set, the Final Hearing Checklist located under Circuit Family Division 2 court approved forms, must be attached to the Notice of Hearing.

Attorneys are responsible for ensuring their clients have completed and filed all mandatory paperwork with the clerk prior to a final hearing being scheduled in JACS. If any documents are missing, the final hearing will be canceled.

If a party is defaulted, counsel shall set a Case Management Conference (CMC) to discuss the setting of a final hearing/trial. See section I. Setting Case for Trial for more information.

11. Temporary Issues/Matters: All temporary issues/matters must be mediated prior to any court hearing, unless excused by court order. If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties are to set the matter for hearing before the magistrate.

12. Adoptions & Terminations of Parental Rights (TPR): Chapter 63 must be strictly followed. Prior to scheduling a final hearing, the moving party must submit the following documentation to the court:

  • a written request for hearing time
  • copies of all documents required by Chapter 63 (after filing originals with the clerk).
  • a fully completed court-approved check list (Adoption or TPR) signed by the submitting attorney, located under court approved forms.

If all the documentation is complete, the court will enter an Order Authorizing Final Hearing reflecting the status of the file. If a final hearing is not authorized, the Court will enter an order reflecting the reason.

Pursuant to Administrative Order 2009-6.12, the judge who entered the Final Judgment in the TPR case must preside over the adoption. When scheduling an adoption in JACS, the adoption case number should appear in the main case number field and the TPR case number should be provided in the “Additional Info” filed.

13. Compel Discovery: Pursuant to Administrative Order 2010-22.2, § E(1)(d), “Motions to compel discovery shall quote in full each interrogatory, question on deposition, request for admission, or request for production to which the motion is addressed and the objection and grounds given by the opposing party.”

14. Motions to Determine Confidentiality of Court Records: See Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin. 2.420; In re Amendments to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420-Sealing of Court Records and Dockets, 954 So. 2d 16 (Fla. 2007); and A.O. No. 2007-12.2.

15. Paternity: The court will not approve parenting plans, even if agreed to, on paternity/time sharing cases unless there is an Order Establishing Paternity and child support is addressed. Upon submission of documents to the court, please submit a copy of the Order Establishing Paternity.

C. Communications with the Judge’s Office

Unsolicited Communications

Unsolicited communication from non-parties will not be read by the Court.

Division Email

Email Family2 dedicated email account. See sections “Submission of Orders” and “Courtesy Copies” for more information.

The subject line should contain the case number, name and relevant matter: 2010 DR 001234 SC – Doe v. Doe - 2 Hour Hearing Requested. All email shall comply with the rules regarding ex parte communications.

Pro Se litigants may only use the division email with the Court’s permission. Pro Se litigants must follow the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s rules for pro se parties.

Inquiries About Cases & Orders

Before contacting the judicial assistant about the status of a case or pending order, attorneys, attorneys' staff and pro se litigants, should consult the Sarasota Clerk’s online docket.

Registered users of ClerkNet may receive automatic email notices whenever a new document is filed in a particular case.


All attorneys and pro se litigants are required to provide an email address to receive signed orders electronically through the ePortal. See Administrative Order 22-1.2 and Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin. Rule 2.516. Attorneys and pro se litigants encouraged to file the Designation of Current Mailing and Email Address (a link is also located under Circuit Family Division 2 court approved forms.

D. Submission of Orders

The court will not sign an order/judgment without clear evidence of agreement or consent by all parties or counsel’s affirmation that opposing counsel has approved the form and content of the order/judgment.

The court does not allow litigation by letter or email. If the parties cannot agree on an issue, the appropriate motion should be filed and set for hearing.

Do not submit a proposed order until all parties have reviewed and approved the proposed order. The court generally uses 12-point Times New Roman font with one-inch margins when drafting proposed orders.

1. ePortal: All attorneys and pro se litigants are required to provide an email address to receive signed orders electronically. See Administrative Order 22-1.2 and Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin. Rule 2.516. Attorneys and pro se litigants encouraged to file the Designation of Current Mailing and Email Address, also located under court approved forms. It is the responsibility of the attorneys and pro se litigants to update their contact information with the clerk any time there is a change. If a party does not have an email address, electronic submission and service will not be authorized.

2. Downloadable Forms: The court utilizes a number of standard orders, which are available for your use and download from the Family Division page. Check this site often as the court adds new or modifies existing proposed orders from time to time.

3. Electronic Submission Court’s preference: Effectively immediately, all proposed orders submitted by attorneys in Family Division 2 must be submitted in compliance with Administrative Order 22-1.2 through the ePortal directly to the assigned Judge, and not filed on the “Progress Docket”. All proposed orders must be in Word Format only. All proposed orders must be accompanied by a cover letter that is also submitted though the ePortal in PDF/A format. The submitting attorney must ensure all parties/attorneys receive a courtesy copy of both the proposed order (Word format) and cover letter (PDF/A) prior to submission.

If an order is submitted electronically, the judicial assistant will serve the Order on the parties via email. The certificate of service must be complete and include the email addresses for all recipients. If additional U.S. mail copies need to be served, please modify the certificate of service accordingly for the movant to complete such actions.

4. Exceptions: The only exceptions for submitting a proposed order through ePortal are as follows and should be submitted to Family Division 2.

  • Income Withholding Order

5. ePortal and Division Email ‘Do Nots’:

  • use this division email address for any other purpose than the submission of a proposed order
  • e-file your proposed Order through the ePortal Progress Docket or submit a proposed order without a detailed service list. Service list must have more than names, include the method of service (email or mailing address).
  • submit a proposed Order Approving a Magistrate Report and Recommended Order. All related orders will be provided to the Court by the Magistrate’s Office.
  • submit two (2) orders for the same case at the same time in the ePortal. This will cause an error and one or both orders may be erased.
  • submit one proposed order for two (2) case numbers. Each case number must have its own document.
  • include any unnecessary marks on documents, including headers or footers (e.g., firm names, internal coding, watermarks, etc.) within the proposed Order.
  • submit consolidated forms. All Stipulations (once e-filed) shall be submitted with the proposed order as its own document. Motions and Stipulations not e-filed will not be considered.
  • email a directive such as “hold this proposed order for x days for an objection to be lodged”. If the paperwork has not been reviewed by all parties, it should not be sent to the Court.
  • use the email and send identical paperwork via U.S. Mail

6. U.S. Mail Submission: If an order must be submitted in paper format, you must also submit preaddressed envelopes with sufficient postage and conforming copies for all parties to receive a service copy. If the necessary copies and/or envelopes are not included, the parties will be required to retrieve copies from the clerk. Please assume the court will add several pages when determining postage amount for any non-routine orders.

7. Agreed To: The court expects that you will only submit a proposed order when all attorneys or parties agree on the form. If the agreement is not evident in the motion and proposed order, the party must submit documentation demonstrating the agreement.

8. Disagreement (Form): If there is a disagreement on the form, or an attorney does not respond within a reasonable period of time, you may then send the proposed order with a concise statement identifying the disagreement and the steps you took to address it. The opposing attorney may submit at the same time an alternate proposed order. Please do not email a directive such as “hold this proposed order for x days for an objection to be lodged.

9. Under Advisement: The court attempts to rule from the bench when appropriate. If the court takes a matter under advisement, the court tries to rule as quickly as possible under the then current circumstances. Do not call to ask about the status of the order. If four (4) weeks have elapsed without a ruling, the movant may email the judicial assistant to advise the matter has been under advisement for four (4) weeks. The four (4) weeks begins upon the court’s receipt of the last post-hearing submission (e.g., transcripts, supplemental briefs, legal authority, proposed orders).

10. After Hearing: Following a hearing, the court may ask the prevailing party to submit a proposed order. Do not submit a proposed order until all parties have reviewed and approved the proposed order. In some cases, the court will ask each party to submit a proposed order. Make sure to abide by any deadlines that the court gives, and all parties are copied. The court does not allow the hearing/motion to be reargued through email. If there are still outstanding issues, the court will give instruction on how to proceed and possibly set an additional hearing.

11. Special Interrogatories & Submission Procedures: The court allows counsel to file Special Interrogatories in lieu of an uncontested final hearing for a dissolution of marriage case.

Counsel must use the court-approved Special Interrogatories and Checklist form located on the court approved forms. The forms should not be modified, except to identify the information requested. Review Section Fl. Stat. §61.19 for details regarding the final judgment.

Special Interrogatories are not allowed for Simplified Dissolutions.

Electronic Submission: Submit your packet containing the original Special Interrogatories; Special Interrogatories Checklist; Proof of Residency and proposed Final Judgment through the ePortal.

In the cover letter, counsel must identify if the MSA and Parenting Plan should be attached or if they referenced the appropriate DINs within the body of the proposed Final Judgment.

The Court will not sign the Final Judgment without clear evidence of agreement or consent by all parties or counsel’s affirmation that opposing counsel has approved the form and content of the Judgment.

Electronic Packet Return: If any of the items are missing in the packet, the court will return it to the sender.

E. Courtesy Copies

1. Electronic Copies: Electronic copies of hearing materials should be sent to Family Division 2. The Court will accept these documents in electronic format only if provided as a single PDF file and must: be text searchable; be paginated with page numbers exactly matching the index pagination; be bookmarked consistent with the index. Proposed Orders/Final Judgments should be a separate attachment in Word Format.

If size limitations prevent the emailing of the PDF file as a single file, multiple files may be provided, or submit to the Court via a USB flash drive. If unable to send in PDF format, the Court would appreciate a paper copy of the motion, the directly relevant evidence (if applicable), only directly relevant case law and any responses filed by opposing parties.

The Court will not open links of any kind. All submissions shall be in a format acceptable to the Court.

2. Paper Copies: Paper copies may be utilized only if the submitting party is unable to provide electronic copies.

3. Submission Deadlines: The Court must receive all materials no later than three business days prior to the hearing. For larger hearings, the judicial assistant will provide a deadline at the time of setting. Please give opposing counsel — and the Court — the opportunity to be prepared to address your motion.

F. Emergency & Other Urgent Matters

1. Emergency, Expedited Request and Hardship Motions: If a party believes there is a factual basis for setting an emergency or hardship hearing, a detailed, sworn and verified motion setting forth the following should be filed:

  • that the movant first conferred with or made a good faith effort to contact opposing party to resolve the matter without Court intervention (efforts to be delineated in the motion re: contact and resolution);
  • the issue(s) that need to be resolved on an expedited basis and why they require an expedited hearing;
  • the basis for the waiver of any required mediation;
  • the amount of time needed, taking into account each party’s presentation.

Emergency or expedited hearings may occur during alternative, unconventional work hours at the court’s discretion.

The original motion shall be filed with the clerk, and a copy hand-delivered or emailed to the court and a phone call placed to the judicial assistant advising of the motion. The judge will determine whether the issues qualify as an “emergency” under the prevailing case law or whether a hardship exists thus justifying the waiver of mediation or the setting of an expedited hearing. The court will prepare an order advising the parties how to proceed. The court may issue an order requesting the non-moving party to file a written response. Failure to follow the steps as outlined in this section will constitute a basis for denial of the motion.

The verification must be in the following form:


State of Florida
County of Sarasota

Before me, the undersigned authority, personally appeared, ____________________ who is personally known to me or produced valid identification and after being duly sworn deposes and says:

I have reviewed the foregoing facts listed in the Emergency and/or hardship Motion and find the same to be true and correct and I understand that I am swearing or affirming under oath as to the truthfulness of each and every claim made in this Motion and that the punishment for knowingly making a false statement includes fines and/or imprisonment.


_____________________(name of movant)

SWORN TO AND SUBSCRIBED before me this _____ day of _____________, by _________________ who is personally know to me or who produced ________ as identification and who did take an oath.

Notary Public

My Commission Expires:

2. Injunctions for Protection: All hearings related to injunctions must be scheduled through the judicial assistant and set on the court’s dedicated injunction day. Any injunction-related proceedings scheduled using JACS will be canceled by the court.

If an attorney represents a Petitioner or Respondent and is aware that an evidentiary hearing will be requested on the date set forth in the Temporary Injunction, that attorney must contact the judicial assistant as soon as practicable for the court to set aside sufficient time for a contested evidentiary hearing. Contested evidentiary hearings may be re-set to the afternoon or a date and time on a future dedicated injunction day.

The court does not modify injunctions by written stipulation alone. All modifications must be addressed on the digital record at a hearing with the parties present.

All approved Domestic Violence related forms may be found on the Sarasota Clerk of Court’s or Florida Supreme Court’s website.

3. Child Testimony: No other entity can permit attendance of a child to a hearing other than the court’s office. See Rule 12.407, Florida Rules of Family Procedure. Child testimony is not permitted unless a Motion to Allow Child Testimony has been filed, set for hearing, and granted by court order.

Do not bring children to the courtroom without prior approval of the court.

G. Exhibits for Evidentiary Hearings

The Clerk’s office requires evidence admitted during an evidentiary hearing to be in paper format without leave of court. Unless the Court instructs you otherwise, please provide the Court’s Judicial Assistant one paper set and one electronic set of all evidence at least two business days before the hearing/trial. Both sets shall include a Table of Exhibits. The paper set will become the official exhibits Judge Ruhl delivers to the Clerk. The electronic set will be for Judge Ruhl’s use. For information on electronic set preferences, please see “For the Judge” below.

Unless the Court directs otherwise, the Plaintiff/Petitioner should mark their exhibits ahead of time as “Plaintiff/Petitioner 1, 2, 3, etc.,” and the Defendant/Respondent should mark their exhibits ahead of time as “Defendant/Respondent A, B, C, etc.”

Electronic evidence and technology: The Court has limited technology available for use in the Courtroom. There are two basic considerations you should keep in mind when planning on using electronic evidence. First, whether the Court has the electronic capability to review the electronic evidence in the courtroom. Second, how the Clerk will “receive” the electronic evidence.

Wherever possible, please convert your electronic evidence into paper format and introduce the paper copy. For instance, electronic pictures, text messages, and the like can be printed out and introduced into evidence. If you have electronic evidence that cannot be converted into paper format—e.g., video files—please place all such files onto a single thumb drive when possible. You are still responsible to broadcast the electronic evidence within the Courtroom.

For the Judge:

Electronic Copies: Electronic copies of hearing materials should be sent to Family Division 2. The Court will accept these documents in electronic format only if provided as a single PDF file and must: be text searchable; be paginated with page numbers exactly matching the index pagination; be bookmarked consistent with the index. Proposed Orders/Final Judgments should be a separate attachment in Word Format.

If size limitations prevent the emailing of the PDF file as a single file, multiple files may be provided, or submit to the Court via a USB flash drive. If submitting as separate file, each exhibit as a separate file, labeled “Petitioner 1” or “Respondent A” and so on.

Confer with opposing counsel to determine what exhibits are stipulated and what evidentiary objections each side is maintaining and avoid duplicate exhibits.

H. Pretrial Procedures & Conferences

1. Mediation: Mediation must be completed, and a Mediation Report be filed with the clerk before counsel can submit a Notice for Trial. With limited exceptions, mediation is required in all cases for all issues before scheduling any hearing before the court or magistrate/Non-Title IV-D hearing officer.

  1. Exigent Circumstances: The court recognizes that exigent circumstances may exist that require an expedited hearing. If a party believes there is a good faith, factual basis for a hearing without prior mediation, that party shall file a detailed, sworn motion that includes the following information:
    • the issues that need to be resolved on an expedited basis;
    • the factual basis for the exigent circumstances;
    • that the moving party first conferred with opposing counsel;
    • the parties were unable to resolve the issue or there was no response.
    Upon receipt, the court will review the written motion and, if appropriate, set a short deadline for the opposing side to respond in writing. The court will also determine whether mediation may be waived by court order due to exigent circumstances.
  2. Exceptions: The following hearings may be scheduled without prior mediation:
    • Discovery-related issues (i.e., compel, protective order, objection to interrogatories, etc.). These motions must comply with the requirements of Administrative Order 2010-22.2, available on the Attorney Info tab as well as on the website of the Sarasota Bar Association.
    • Motions directed to the pleadings (i.e., amend, strike, default, dismiss, set aside, etc.)
    • Where there is an established history of domestic violence (either by stipulation or verified motion) that would compromise the mediation process.
    • Uncontested matters (i.e., name change, dissolution, etc.)
    • After a default has been entered against the opposing party (Financial Affidavit must still be filed if seeking support).
    • By court order allowing an exception based on hardship, emergency, or other exigent circumstances pursuant to a written motion filed in compliance with these requirements.
  3. Orders of Referral:
    1. Private Mediation: No Order of Referral to Mediation is required for private mediation, though a mediation report must be filed with the clerk and a courtesy copy provided to the court.
    2. Twelfth Judicial Cricuit Family Mediation Program: If the gross income of the parties meets statutory program eligibility requirements, the Court may refer the parties to the Family Mediation Program, which provides Florida Supreme Court Family Certified Mediators to help parties resolve open cases. Visit the Family Mediation Program page for detailed information about the program.
    3. Parties do not need to submit a motion for referral however they must submit an Order of Referral to Mediation using the approved form available on the Circuit’s website. Pursuant to Amended Administrative Order 2011-2.2, both parties must have current financial affidavits on file before submitting an Order of Referral to Mediation so that the court can verify the parties qualify for the Family Mediation Program and to determine the appropriate fee.
    4. Pursuant to Fla.Fam.L.R.P. 12.285, Mandatory Disclosure, subsection (e)(1) (in part), if a Supplemental Petition has been filed, both parties must file new Financial Affidavits, regardless of how recently Financial Affidavits were last filed. Pursuant to subsection (f), both parties have an on-going duty to supplement their Financial Affidavits whenever there is a material change to their financial status.
  4. Notice for Trial: The Notice for Trial must comply with Family Law Rule 12.440 and describe:
    • the type of case to be tried;
    • the specific issues to be tried;
    • the total time it will take all parties to present their case.
    The original should be filed with the clerk and a copy provided to the court. The only exception to avoid a Notice for Trial is if a fully executed Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) has been filed.
    Within 30 days of filing a Notice of Trial, the Petitioner shall review the pre-determined Case Management Conference (CMC) dates available on the website with opposing parties. After selecting a date, the Petitioner shall fill out the Family 2 CMC form order located under the court approved forms, and submit to the court for review.
  5. Case Management Conference (CMC): The Court conducts two general types of CMCs:
    1. to select a trial date;
    2. when a case needs more active management.
    Any party may request a CMC. The Court strongly encourages the early use of CMC in more complex cases, multiple party litigation, or any case that might benefit from court intervention. Unless excused by the court in advance, all CMCs are mandatory for attorneys and pro se litigants. Clients are not required to appear at CMC.
    If the parties submit an accurate and completed Trial Order, located under the court approved forms, to the court at least two (2) business days prior to the CMC, then the parties are excused. Parties are not excused until a confirmation email is sent by the judicial assistant.
    Failure to attend the Case Management Conference could result in the court dismissing the action, striking the pleadings, limiting proof or witnesses, or taking other appropriate action. See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.200(c)
  6. Status Conferences: If you wish to have a status conference on a case, please file a motion that detail the reasons for the request. If all parties agree that a status conference is needed, the judicial assistant may be emailed without filing a motion.

I. Setting Case for Trial

1. Mediation: Mediation must be completed, and a Mediation Report be filed with the clerk before counsel can submit a Notice for Trial.

2. Notice for Trial: The Notice for Trial must comply with Family Law Rule 12.440 and describe:

  • the type of case to be tried;
  • the specific issues to be tried;
  • the total time it will take all parties to present their case.

The original should be filed with the clerk and a copy provided to the court. The only exception to avoid a Notice for Trial is if a fully executed MSA has been filed.

3. Before Pre-Trial Conference (PTC): The parties are strongly encouraged to review the Trial Order and the deadlines set out within. Parties are to confer at least seven (7) days prior to Pre-Trial Conference (PTC) to complete the required documents to tender to the court as identified in the Order.

4. Pre-Trial Conference Mandatory: General issues will be discussed, and exhibits will be reviewed for discussions regarding stipulations regarding admissibility. All known motions/disputes (including any unresolved objections in deposition/video testimony) shall have been heard prior to the PTC or will be deemed waived. Absent a showing of good cause, the date/time will not be changed. Matters which have been settled may be set for final hearing at that time upon prior approval of the court.

Lead/Trial Counsel and pro se litigants must appear for the mandatory PTC. Clients are not required.

After PTC, the court will publish a trial lineup. Please note that if you are scheduled for a specific trial period, the court will make best efforts to have the Trial move forward. The court will designate “Back-Up” cases to be scheduled within the trial period in the event of a settlement or unforeseen issues.

5. Date Certain Trials: The court does not set date certain trials. After Pre-Trial Conference, the Court will assign cases to specific days during the trial period and assign back-up cases, if necessary. The attorneys, parties and witnesses are expected to be available the entire trial period. See Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin., Rule 2.550 Calendar Conflicts

Once a Trial Order has been entered, any party requesting a date certain during the selected trial period is to file the appropriate motion and set the matter for hearing.

6. Continuances: This court adheres strictly to Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin. 2.545(e) and Rule of Family Procedure 12.460. A stipulation to continue a trial does not automatically continue a trial. A trial may only be continued by court order. All deadlines remain intact until a court order is entered. Accordingly, motions for continuance and stipulations must be in writing and set forth:

  • The signature of the litigant as well as the attorney.
  • A concise statement of the reasons for a continuance. If based on non-availability of a witness, a showing of when it is believed the witness will be available must be stated.
  • All motions and any stipulation must be heard at least ten (10) days prior to trial, unless otherwise permitted by the court.

No motion or stipulation will be considered that is not in compliance with this order.

7. Settlements when Scheduled for Trial: If the parties settle after being scheduled for trial, Petitioner’s counsel shall immediately notify the court in writing and copy to opposing counsel/party. Settlements may be noticed for final hearing at the PTC with copy of the notice being provided to the court. The Court will take those parties last.

8. Settlements Occurring after PTC: If the parties settle after PTC, the parties must notify the court’s judicial assistant and must also immediately contact the attorneys next in order on the trial lineup, even over the weekend. Additionally, all final hearings, stipulations and final judgments must be held and entered by the court before or during the trial period. Be prepared to hold the final hearing morning of trial, unless indicated otherwise by the court.

J. Preferred Division Forms

For access to the approved division forms, please visit the Family Division page.

K. Other Division Procedures

1. Parenting Course: Under Florida law, all parties to a dissolution of marriage proceeding with minor child(ren) or a paternity action that includes issues of parental responsibility must complete the 4-hour Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course prior to the entry of a final judgment. See §61.21, Fla. Stat. The course may be completed online (without an order from the Court) or in-person. A list of providers is available on the Court’s website. Please see the Standing Order for statutory deadlines.

A final hearing shall not be scheduled unless both certificates have been filed.

2. Parenting Plans: The court requires the use of the approved Twelfth Circuit Parenting Plans. The court asks that the sections contained in the plans not being utilized are left blank; not deleted or modified. Parenting Plans that do not meet all minimum statutory requirements will not be accepted.

3. Petition for Relocation: When a Motion for Relocation is filed, counsel must simultaneously provide a copy to the court as well as a written notice to set the matter for a hearing on the Petition.

4. Rehearing or Reconsideration: Do not set Motions for Rehearing or Reconsideration for hearing through JACS, instead send them to the court with a cover letter. The court will decide whether to hold a hearing. A delay in submitting the motion directly to the Court, may limit date options available for the parties to choose from.

5. Required Service on the Court: Petitions and motions that by law must be served upon the Judge (e.g., writs, appeals, recusal motions), must be either emailed to the court’s judicial assistant or hand delivered to the court deputy station on the 1st floor. Additionally, please call the judicial assistant to advise of the service.

6. Fl. Stat. §61.19: No final judgment of dissolution of marriage may be entered until at least 20 days have elapsed from the date of filing the original petition for dissolution of marriage; but the court, on a showing that injustice would result from this delay, may enter a final judgment of dissolution of marriage at an earlier date.

7. Settlements (when not scheduled for trial): Whenever a case settles, the parties shall immediately provide written notice to the court’s judicial assistant. Absent compelling circumstances, the court will cancel all future hearings and administratively close the case pending final settlement. One must file a Voluntary Dismissal, submit a proposed order of dismissal or final judgment, or take some other action to lawfully end the case.

8. Withdrawing or Substituting as Attorney: If you are withdrawing/substituting as attorney, please use the appropriate downloadable Order Granting Substitution/Withdrawal of Attorney, located under court approved forms. If neither form accomplishes what you need, please track the language regarding the clerk deactivating the attorney within the Case Management System and include in the title of the order the directive to the clerk to update the Case Management System. Without this language, the Case Management System will show you as attorney of record. No hearing is needed if you file and submit client consent to the court with the motion and proposed order. Otherwise, you must notice the motion for hearing and include the client on the certificate of service.

Attorneys must separately remove themselves, and staff, from the ePortal. If this step is not completed, they will continue to receive notices.

9. Inmate Attendance at a Hearing: Only the Judge’s Office may order inmates to appear from local jails or Department of Corrections (D.O.C.). Inmates will only be permitted to appear via Zoom, as they will not be transported to the courtroom for Family Division cases, except in extreme circumstances.

  1. Local Jail (Manatee Co. or Sarasota Co. Sheriff’s Office): Please email the judicial assistant a copy of the Notice of Hearing no less than 3 business days in advance of the hearing due to the Sheriff Office’s procedures. The email shall identify the inmate’s full name, birthdate and custody location. If the inmate is not timely requested, the inmate will not be provided. The judge’s office has zero flexibility with submission deadlines by the Sheriff’s Office.
  2. Department of Corrections (D.O.C.): Please coordinate directly with the judicial assistant to schedule your hearing with/for a D.O.C. inmate. The email shall identify the inmate’s full name, birthdate, and custody information (facility, classification officer contact information, and department email address). The judge’s office will enter an “Order Directing D.O.C. to Provide Inmate for Hearing”. This order is sent approximately 45 days in advance for the hearing for best chance of the inmate appearing.

10. Magistrate and Child Support Hearing Officer: Absent an Objection filed, the following issues must be referred to Magistrate Rebecca Hunt. The scheduling attorney should submit a Family Division “Order of Referral to Magistrate” setting forth the issue(s). A motion is not required. Visit Magistrate Hunt’s Biography page for requirements. No matters over ½ day shall be scheduled with the Magistrate (with the exception of child support related issues or court approval).

 Link to Magistrate Hunt’s requirements.

  1. Refer to Magistrate after mediation has been completed: All temporary issues (except hardship or emergency motions that the court has agreed to allow the magistrate to hear on an expedited basis).
  2. Refer to Magistrate prior to Mediation being completed:
    • All Civil Contempt/Enforcement issues
    • All Discovery-related issues (i.e., compel, protective order, objection to interrogatories, etc.) These motions must be in compliance with the circuit’s Standards of Professionalism.
    • All motions directed to the pleadings (i.e., amended, strike, default, dismiss, set aside, etc.)
  3. Do not refer these issues to the Magistrate:
    • Domestic violence proceedings including any time-sharing or visitation matters, which arise from the injunction proceeding. Note: The Magistrate may hear collateral issues of child or spousal support to the extent they do not conflict with provisions of the injunction.
    • Cases involving requests for emergency pickup orders following flight or threat of flight with a child from the jurisdiction;
    • Emergency matters unless the Circuit Judge has determined that the issue(s) involved do not require immediate resolution before the exception period would expire (or during the additional time, if one or both parties file(s) exceptions);
    • Petitions to Approve the Termination of Pregnancy by a Minor;
    • Criminal Contempt.
  4. Motion to Vacate the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate: When submitting a Motion to Vacate the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate, the original motion should be filed with the clerk and a copy furnished directly to the court and to the magistrate. A delay in submitting the motion directly to the court and to the magistrate, may limit the time needed to obtain transcripts and set the hearing.
    The court will enter an Order for Transcript giving the movant a deadline for obtaining a transcript and setting the Motion to Vacate for hearing. Motion to Vacate hearings are non-evidentiary and are similar to an appeal. The hearing may not be set for more than 30 minutes (15 minutes per side) without prior approval of the court.
  5. Child Support:
    1. All child support proceedings are held before the Child Support Hearing Officer and General Magistrate, Lawrence Jacobs
    2. A Notice for Trial is not required when child support is the only issue to be resolved.
    3. Child Support Hearing Officer (No Orders of Referral): Orders of Referral are not required for hearings relating to child support issues. Use of a Child Support Hearing Officer does not require consent. See Heilman v. Heilman, 596 So. 2d 1046 (Fla. 1992).
    4. Motions to Vacate (Child Support): Pursuant to Family Law Rule 12.491(f), any party affected by an order may move to vacate an order by filing a Motion to Vacate within ten (10) days from the date of entry of the order. The motion must be filed in the clerk’s office, and a copy of the motion must simultaneously be sent to the assigned court and to the hearing officer.

Contact Information