Family Division 4

Requirements and Information

July 2023

Teresa Dees, Circuit Judge

Carla Neal, Judicial Assistant

Local Rules & Standards of Professionalism

All attorneys must follow the 12th Judicial Circuit Standards of Professionalism and Local Rules, also available on the Manatee County Bar Association’s website. Also see the Court webpage for Family Division forms and other information.

The Judicial Assistant cannot answer your legal questions and cannot “explain” your situation to the Judge. Your opportunity to speak to the Judge happens in the courtroom only.


The person needing the interpreter or his/her attorney is responsible for scheduling the interpreter. The Court does not automatically schedule interpreters for you. Each scheduled court event must be scheduled separately, as one scheduled event does not automatically schedule an interpreter for the duration of the case.

Requests for court interpreters should be made at least 5 business days in advance of the scheduled proceeding. Requests made with less than 5 business days’ notice may not be accommodated. In the case of less common languages, more time may be necessary to arrange for a qualified interpreter and/or a telephonic interpreting service may be used.

Child Testimony

Testimony from children is not permitted unless the Court grants permission after a hearing on a Motion to Allow Child Testimony. The Court will not automatically honor stipulations for a child to testify in Court. Do not bring children to the Courthouse without prior approval. See Fla.R.Fam.P. 12.407.


Before scheduling an evidentiary, non-emergency, hearing with the Judge or the Magistrate/Non-Title IV-D hearing officer, mediation is required on all issues with the following exceptions:

  • An uncontested cause of action (i.e., name change, uncontested dissolution, when respondent has been defaulted, etc.)
  • A Court order allowing an exception based on a hardship upon motion filed in compliance with this Court’s requirements (see “Motions” section for further direction)
  • When it is established by stipulation or verified motion that there is a history of domestic violence that would compromise the mediation process. (see “Motions” section for further direction)
  • The issues set forth in the “Magistrate” section under “Refer to Magistrate PRIOR to mediation being completed.”
  • Motion for Temporary Relief

Family Mediation Program

Parties must submit an Order of Referral to Mediation, using the approved form available on the Mediation Services Department webpage. A motion is not required. Pursuant to Amended Administrative Order 2011-2.2, both parties must have current financial affidavits on file prior to submitting an Order of Referral (to verify that the parties qualify for the Family Mediation Program and for the Family Mediation Program to adequately determine the appropriate fee). The Mediation Program will rely upon the most recent financial affidavits on file. Pursuant to Fla.Fam.L.R.P. 12.285, Mandatory Disclosure, subsection (e)(1) (in part), if a Supplemental Petition has been filed, a new financial affidavit will need to be filed by both parties (no matter how recently their prior financial affidavits were filed under the initial Petition). Additionally, pursuant to subsection (f), parties have a continuing duty to supplement financial affidavits whenever a material change in their financial status occurs.

Private Mediation

Orders of Referral are not required, but a report must be filed.


See General Magistrate/Hearing Officer David Caskey requirements for Family Division 4.

Unless an Objection is on file, the following issues must be referred to Magistrate David Caskey. The scheduling attorney should submit a Family Division “Order of Referral to Magistrate” setting forth the issue(s). A motion is not required.

  • All temporary issues
  • 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 Local Rule 5.
  • All motions directed to the pleadings (i.e., amend, strike, default, dismiss, set aside, etc.).

Do not Refer these Issues to the Magistrate:

  • Evidentiary issues requiring more than one (1) day of trial time.
  • 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).
  • Criminal Contempt.

Exceptions to Report and Recommendations of Magistrate

When submitting Exceptions to the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate, the original Exceptions should be filed with the Clerk and a copy furnished directly to the Court and to the Magistrate.

Oral Argument/Scheduling

The Court will enter an “Order for Transcript,” giving the party filing the Exceptions a deadline for obtaining a transcript and setting the Exceptions for hearing. Exception hearings are non-evidentiary and similar to an appeal. The hearing should be set for no more than 30 minutes (15 minutes per side).

Child Support

Title IV-D

All Title IV-D proceedings are held before the Honorable Laura M. Hale, Child Support Hearing Officer.

Non-Title IV-D Child Support

After mediation has been completed, all non-Title IV-D child support proceedings concerning the establishment or modification of child support must be scheduled before the Honorable Laura M. Hale, Child Support Hearing Officer. Contempt and enforcement proceedings may be scheduled without the need for mediation. All requests for hearing time on child support issues exceeding one (1) hour shall be made in writing directly with the office of Hearing Officer Caskey (not with the assigned Judge). A Notice for Trial is not required when child support is the only issue to be resolved.

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).)

Child Support - Motions to Vacate

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 Circuit Judge and to the Hearing Officer.


Scheduling Hearing Using JACS

Hearings should be scheduled using the JACS. JACS hearings can be scheduled for 5, 15, 30 or 60 minutes. If you need more than an hour, contact the JA. Do not set back-to-back hearings to obtain more time.

Do not combine time spots without Court approval.

Case Law & Memoranda

To ensure that the court has adequate time to review the materials, parties should provide the Judge with any prepared memorandum of law, case law, statutory law, or rules to be relied upon at the hearing at least two (2) days prior to the hearing. Memoranda may be submitted to the Family Division 4 Email. Lengthy materials, case law, or notebooks may be submitted by U.S. Mail or hand delivery.

Final Hearings Involving Minor Children

When scheduling final hearings involving minor children, the Marital Settlement Agreement and the Parenting Plan must be on file. In dissolution and paternity cases, both parties must file Certificates of Completion of the required parenting course.

Cross-Noticing Hearings

Once a motion has been scheduled, additional motions may not be “cross-noticed” to be heard during the time reserved for the first motion unless the original scheduling attorney agrees. The scheduling attorney should be contacted for approval prior to calling the Court to add the hearing. All hearings must be completed in the time reserved unless additional time has been cleared with the JA.

Cancellation of Hearings

If a hearing will not go forward, please cancel it on JACS as soon as possible so that the block of time reopens for hearings. JACS closes 7 days prior to the hearing date. For cancellations after this cutoff, notify the JA and all other parties, and file a Notice of Cancellation with the Clerk.

Telephonic Hearings

Telephone appearances are allowed for non-evidentiary hearings of 15 minutes or less. The number for the Clerk to call must be listed on the Notice of Hearing, and should also be entered in JACS when setting the hearing. If a hearing was not scheduled to be telephonic, any change must be arranged with the JA at least 24 hours prior to the hearing. No requests for telephonic hearings will be granted the day of the hearing. When more than one hearing is scheduled for the same time period, telephone hearings are heard last.

Toll-Free or Collect Only

A toll-free or collect number must be provided for non-local calls. If your phone system blocks the collect call or you have an automated system which does not accept the call, the hearing will be canceled or go forward without your presence at the judge’s discretion.

Telephone Testimony

Pursuant to Fla. R. Jud. Adm. 2.530(d)(1), the Court may allow testimony to be provided by telephone if all parties consent or if permitted by another applicable rule of procedure. If the parties do not stipulate, then, there shall be compliance with the requirements of Rule 12.451(b), Fla. Fam.L.R.P. If granted, a notary public or other person authorized to administer oaths in the witness’s jurisdiction shall be present with the witness and administer the oath consistent with the laws of the jurisdiction, unless the parties stipulate otherwise. Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.451(d).

Submitting Orders

After Hearings

Following a hearing, the Court may ask the parties to submit a proposed order, The proposed orders may be sent either by U.S. mail with copies to all parties or to the Division email with copies to all parties. When sending an order to the Court, the accompanying cover letter should state whether all counsel have approved the order or, if unable to agree, detail the points of disagreement.

Litigation by Letter or Email

This Court does not allow litigation by letter or email (sending competing letters/emails to the Court outlining disputed issues). If the parties cannot agree on an issue, an appropriate motion or pleading should be filed and set for hearing.

Ex Parte Orders

Orders must be submitted with a stipulation or a representation to the Court that it is an agreed order that has been reviewed and approved by opposing counsel.

Online Case Docket

To find out if the judge has signed an order or if a pleading has been filed, rather than calling the judicial assistant, log on to the website operated by the Manatee Clerk of Court, which allows authorized parties to view and print documents in the court file. The site also has a notification procedure which will send an email whenever a new document has been filed in a particular case. Using this site is much more efficient (and quicker) than calling the JA.

Setting a Case for Trial

Mediation Required

Mediation is required in all cases unless waived by order of the court and must be completed prior to trial. A trial order may be vacated if mediation has not been completed or scheduled by the time of the Pre Trial Conference.

The Notice for Trial must be in compliance with Florida Family Law Rule 12.440 and Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.440 and indicate the issue(s) to be tried (i.e., dissolution of marriage, modification of time-sharing, etc.), and the length of time required. A copy of the Notice for Trial should be sent to the assigned Judge. It is not necessary to complete mediation before filing a Notice for Trial.

Pre-Trial Memorandum

In all cases, parties shall confer at least ten (10) days prior to trial and complete a Joint Pre-Trial Memorandum. If the parties are unable to complete a Joint Pre-Trial Memorandum, they shall certify they have attempted and failed. Upon certifying failure to complete a Joint Pre-Trial Memorandum, each party shall complete his or her own Pre-Trial Memorandum. The Pre-Trial Memorandum shall have attached a fully executed Financial Affidavit for each party, a child support guideline worksheet where applicable and an Equitable Distribution Matrix. Documents are available at either the Circuit's Family Division Forms & Information webpage or the Florida Courts website.

Case Management Conference

A Case Management Conference will be set, and an order sent to the parties upon receipt of a Notice for Trial. Available trial dates may be obtained from the Judicial Assistant. If the Court receives a stipulation, the parties are excused from the Case Management Conference.

Trial Week

Trials will be scheduled on a one-week trial docket, with a scheduling conference one week before the trial week.

Date and Time Certain

Trials are scheduled during a one week trial period. If the parties are requesting a date and time certain for their case, they may do so by contacting the JA for available dates. Cases set for dates and times certain will typically involve trials expected to last more than two days, or which involve out of town witnesses or complex issues. The trial schedule will be determined at the time of the Pre Trial Conference the week prior. Requests for particular days or notices of conflict may also be included in the notice for trial or at the Case Management Conference and the court will make every effort to accommodate scheduling issues.


The judge’s office shall be contacted immediately once a settlement has been reached.


Motions must be in writing pursuant to Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.460, and show good cause for the continuance. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.545(e).

Stipulations for Continuance

A stipulation must detail the reasons why a continuance is necessary and must be signed by counsel and all parties. The judge will determine if a hearing is required.

Witnesses/Parties Appearing Through Deposition Testimony at Trial

  • Attorneys shall confer and identify all deposition questions and answers (video or transcribed) to be read or shown to the Court.
  • The attorneys shall make every reasonable effort to resolve all objections.

Motions (Specific)

Emergency/Hardship Motions

If a party believes there is a factual basis for setting a hardship or emergency 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 counsel to resolve the matter;
  • the issues 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.

The verification must be in the following form:


COUNTY OF ________________

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:

(The original motion shall be filed with the Clerk, and a copy hand-delivered or emailed to the Court. 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 on 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 Judge will review the motion and determine whether an emergency hearing is required.

Motion for Rehearing/Reconsideration

If the issue cannot be resolved between the attorneys, an appropriate motion must be filed within 15 days of the filing of the Final Judgment/Order. The motion should contain all written argument cited to the appropriate authority. A copy should be hand-delivered or emailed to the Court. Do not schedule Motions for Rehearing/Reconsideration on JACS, as the Court may rule without hearing.

Do not select “Other Motion” on JACS to schedule a Motion for Rehearing/Reconsideration unless authorized to schedule the hearing by the Court.

Motion/Petition for Relocation

When a Motion for Temporary Relocation is filed, counsel must simultaneously provide a copy to the assigned Judge. Counsel must also provide a copy of a notice to set the matter for nonjury trial on a Petition to Relocate to the assigned Judge.

Substitution of Counsel

Pursuant to Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.505(f)(2), stipulations for substitution of counsel must be signed by the client.

Withdrawal of Counsel

Pursuant to Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.505(f)(1), motions to withdraw must be set for hearing, with notice being provided to all parties. In lieu of a hearing, counsel may submit to the judge the following:

  • a stipulation to withdraw signed by the attorney and the client
  • a proposed order allowing the withdrawal, including a mailing address for the client and a physical street address in the event that service at a later date is necessary.

Parenting Issues

Parenting Course

Required in all dissolutions with minor children and in all paternity cases. The law mandates time frames within which parents must complete a DCF-approved Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. It is the responsibility of counsel to ensure that clients have completed this course and that a Certificate of Completion is on file prior to the final hearing. At the time of the final hearing, if one of the parties has not filed a certificate that party may be limited to supervised time-sharing until a Certificate is filed.

If neither party has certificates on file, the hearing will be cancelled.


Orders to attend parenting course will not be entered. The law mandates time frames within which parents must expeditiously complete a DCF approved Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. It is the responsibility of counsel to ensure their client has completed this course and a Certificate of Completion is on file.

Correspondence or Internet Courses

A DCF-approved course through correspondence or the Internet is authorized only if a party resides out of state or in a county where a course is not offered.

The Court will not approve parenting plans, even if agreed to, on paternity/time-sharing cases unless there is an order establishing paternity.

Injunctions for Protection

All hearings related to injunctions for protection should be scheduled with the judicial assistant; any hearings scheduled on JACS will be cancelled.

If either party or both parties are represented by counsel, please contact the Judicial Assistant as soon as possible regarding the possibility of special-setting the Injunction hearing later in the day to avoid a backlog of hearings and unnecessary waiting time for attorneys, litigants and witnesses in these cases.

Adoptions/Termination of Parental Rights

F.S. chapter 63 must be strictly followed in its entirety

Final Hearings

A written request for final hearing and copies of all pertinent materials required under F.S. Chap. 63 shall be provided to the Judge’s office, along with the appropriate court-approved checklist (TPR or Adoption), fully completed and signed by the attorney. The Court will review and, if complete, will send an Order Authorizing Final Hearing.

If Authorized

A copy of the order authorizing must be attached to the Notice of Hearing, and provided to the Court prior to the hearing. The adoption hearing must be scheduled before the same judge that entered the Final Judgment in the TPR case. The hearing must be scheduled on JACS using the adoption case number. The TPR case number should be entered in the “Additional Info” field.

Special Interrogatories

This Court does allow attorneys to file Special Interrogatories in lieu of an uncontested final hearing on a Dissolution of Marriage. Counsel must use the court-approved Special Interrogatories Form and follow the included instructions.

Guidelines for Zoom Hearings (approved by the court)

Witnesses and Parties Testifying

Witnesses should have a device to attend the hearing and an appropriate location to sit during the hearing, free of distractions. Virtual backgrounds are not permitted while a person is testifying. Set-up should be tested ahead of time to ensure there is no echoing or other technical issues. Witness shall not communicate with anyone during their testimony. This means no texting or chatting on any device or talking to anyone physically in the room.

  • Although the hearing is being conducted virtually, it is still a court proceeding subject to ordinary rules of decorum. This means you should be attentive and behave as you would if the hearing were being held in person.
  • The penalties of perjury or contempt are still applicable.
  • If the Rule of Sequestration is invoked, the witness will either be asked to login to zoom when it’s their turn, or to sit in a zoom “waiting room” while the hearing is proceeding. This rule prohibits witnesses from listening to someone else’s testimony and also prohibits a witness from discussing their testimony, or that of another witness, with anyone except for authorized communication with an attorney. Anyone who violates this rule will be subject to contempt sanctions, which may include incarceration or fines, or both.
  • Recording a court proceeding, except by a certified court reporter or the 12th Circuit Digital Recording System, is strictly prohibited and will result in contempt sanctions.
  • Proper attire is required. Business casual is acceptable.
  • Please ensure you are attending this hearing in a distraction free environment. Turn off ringers and alerts that make noise. Make sure zoom displays your first and last name.
  • Let the attorney or judge finish speaking before answering questions. When an objection is made, stop talking and let the judge rule on the objection. Mute your microphone when not being addressed.
  • There are icons on the zoom screen that allow a person to raise their hand or ask for a break.
  • Procedure for disconnection: If disconnected, attempt to re-enter the meeting. If you are unable to rejoin, contact your attorney by phone or email, or contact the judicial assistant.

Contact Information