South Sarasota County Family Division

Requirements and Information

April 19, 2023

Matthew K. Peters, Hearing Officer

Requirements & Information

Courtroom Conduct

All attorneys are expected to adhere to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s Standards of Professionalism, located on the Circuit’s website. All parties are expected to adhere to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Family Division Rules of Courtroom Etiquette and the Rules for Parties in Child Support Cases, posted both inside and outside the courtroom. Children are never permitted to be in the courtroom without a prior Court Order.



All hearings 60 minutes or less shall be scheduled on this Court’s JACS. A motion must be filed before scheduling it for hearing. Hearings are limited to the time requested. The party opposing the motion is entitled to equal time; therefore, a party requesting hearing time should determine how much time he/she needs and then double the estimate when requesting hearing time.

Cases not appearing on the JACS docket will not be heard.

All hearings will be in person and must be scheduled on a Thursday or Friday (selecting either a 30-minute or 60-minute time slot; there are no 15-minute slots available). Florida F.L. Rule of Procedure 12.290 applies as well as local Administrative Order.

Hearings over 60 Minutes

  • Hearings requiring longer than 60 minutes must be scheduled through the Magistrate’s Assistant
  • No hearings/trials over ½ day shall be scheduled with the Magistrate (with the exception of child support related issues). Any non-child support related hearings/trials requiring more than ½ day must be scheduled with the assigned Family Division Judge.
  • One-Half (½) Day Hearings/Trials: Prior to contacting the Magistrate’s Assistant for dates/times for ½ day hearings/trials, one of the following must be on file:
    • An Order of Referral to Magistrate on the issue to be heard, and time for objections to the Order of Referral must have passed (with no objections being filed).
    • An Order of Referral to Magistrate (with a signed Stipulation waiving the 10 days to object to the Magistrate hearing the case).
  • Supporting Case Law for hearing should be submitted in advance of the hearing.

Mediation Requirement

Formal mediation must be completed prior to scheduling any matters for hearing (this includes all temporary issues). The only hearings that may be scheduled prior to mediation being completed are contempt/enforcement (with certain discretionary exceptions as set forth below), discovery related issues, motions directed to the pleadings, uncontested issues, or where a party has been defaulted.

The Magistrate/Hearing Officer reserves the right to recommend pro se matters filed as “contempt/enforcement” to mediation if, in his discretion, the matter requires further clarification which may be accomplished through mediation prior to litigation.

Telephonic Appearances

Requests to appear by telephone are governed by Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.530. A request must be in writing and submitted to the Magistrate as far in advance of the hearing date as possible; a copy of the request must also be sent to the opposing party. The request must contain the phone number where the party seeking to appear by phone can be reached on the day and time of the scheduled hearing. The Magistrate will then determine whether the party will be permitted to appear by phone. This determination will be made in accordance with Rule 2.530 and may depend upon the type/length of the proceeding, any objections from the opposing side, the timeliness of the request, or any other factor in the Hearing Officer’s discretion.

If a telephone appearance is granted, the party to be called must be available at the phone number provided. The Magistrate cannot provide an exact time of the phone call, as hearings on cases where all parties are present in the courtroom will be concluded prior to phone hearings. If the person requesting a phone hearing is not available when the court calls, the hearing will not be continued, and the unavailable party will have lost his or her opportunity to appear.

Be advised The Court reserves the right to terminate a telephonic appearance of any party at any time during the hearing due to a party’s inappropriate or disrespectful conduct during the telephone appearance. The hearing will not be continued and will proceed without the party who has disrupted the Court.

Exceptions to Magistrate’s Report & Recommendation

Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.490(f) provides, “The parties may file exceptions to the report within 10 days from the time it is served on them.” If the report is mailed to the parties, pursuant to Rule 12.090 and Florida Rule of Civil Procedure l.090(e), a party has an additional five days to file exceptions. See Riley v. Riley, 14 So.3d 1284, 1289 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009). Werntz v. Floyd, 814 So. 2d 480, 481 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002); Palmer v. Palmer, 582 So. 2d 639, 640 n. 1 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991).

Motions to Vacate Child Support Hearing Officer’s Recommendation

Pursuant to Family Law Rule 12.491(f), any party affected by an order issued in a Child Support Enforcement proceeding may move to vacate an order by filing a motion within ten (10) days from the date of entry of the order. The motion must be filed in the Clerk’s Office; a copy of the motion must also be sent to the Circuit Judge with a cover letter.

Orders of Referral to Magistrate

Child Support Related Issues

No Orders of Referral to Magistrate are to be submitted on child support related issues. Those are heard by Matthew K. Peters in his capacity as a Child Support Hearing Officer (not a Magistrate), and Orders of Referral are not required for those (pursuant to local Admin. Order and Rule 12.491). Note: Matthew K. Peters is employed as a part-time Hearing Officer and a part-time Magistrate.

Non-Child Support Related Issues

On all non-child support related issues scheduled before the Magistrate, an Order of Referral to Magistrate is required. It is the responsibility of the attorney to submit the following to the Family Division Judge assigned to the case:

A Family Division “Order of Referral to Magistrate,” which specifically sets forth the issue(s) to be resolved (no “blanket” Orders of Referral will be accepted), as well as the appropriate number of copies and stamped/addressed envelopes. See FL Family Law Rule 12.490. The Order must identify the General Magistrate by name and the specific matters being referred.

The following exception language (to be in bold type) is required in all Orders of Referral and Notice of the Hearing:

Please take notice that pursuant to Rule 12.490(/), the parties to this cause have ten (10) days from the date of service of the Report and Recommendations to file exceptions to its contents. The party filing exceptions is required to send copies of the exceptions directly to the Judge assigned to this case, as well as to the undersigned Magistrate. The party filing exceptions will be required to provide the Court with a record sufficient to support their exceptions or the exceptions will be denied. A record ordinarily includes a written transcript of all relevant proceedings. The party filing the exceptions must have the transcript prepared for the court’s review. If exceptions are timely filed, they shall be heard on reasonable notice by either party or the court. If no exceptions are filed within ten (10) days from the date of service, the Court shall take appropriate action on the report.

Any issue requiring an Order of Referral to Magistrate shall not be scheduled for hearing on JACS prior to the entry of an Order of Referral to the Magistrate and the filing of the Motion or pleading to be heard. Any hearing scheduled without an appropriate Order of Referral (when one is required) or without the filing of a Motion or pleading will be cancelled as the Magistrate does not have jurisdiction to hear the matter without the Order of Referral signed by the Judge.

Orders of Referral Re Attorney Fees

Pursuant to Ferencz v. Ferencz, 897 So. 2d 558 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005), if the subject matter concerns attorney’s fees for litigation unconnected to child support, an Order of Referral to General Magistrate needs to issue (the Order of Referral to General Magistrate should state: “The attorney’s fees component of (specify the name of the Motion/Petition) is the sole subject of this Order of Referral to General Magistrate”). If the attorney fees are related to child support issues, no Order of Referral is necessary.

Contempt & Enforcement Hearings

Failure to follow these guidelines may result in the hearing being continued for compliance.

Contempt hearings require specificity as to the following: each violation, date of violation, language of order or judgment allegedly violated. See FL Family Law Rule 12.615.

If a Party wants to submit documents for the Magistrate’s consideration, then that Party shall bring two (2) additional copies of that document; one for the Magistrate and one for the other Party.

If a Party is seeking enforcement of child support, alimony, health insurance premiums, medical expense reimbursement, day care/summer camp costs, etc., which are not paid through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) in Tallahassee, then the Party seeking enforcement shall prepare a detailed organized, itemized, and summarized statement for the Magistrate and opposing party indicating the total of the items that has been paid, what has not been paid, and what if any reimbursement is due. Said Party shall also provide the Magistrate and opposing party with a copy of the supporting bills, canceled checks, credit card receipts, etc. If exhibits are not timely filed or are found not to be complete, an Order to Mediation may be recommended by the Magistrate.

Proposed Reports & Recommendations

When submitting the proposed Report and Recommendation, you must also submit an Order Approving Report and Recommendation (or Final Judgment, if appropriate) for the judge’s signature, as well as two sets of stamped/addressed envelopes for all parties (one set for the proposed Report and Recommendation and one set for the Order Approving the Report and Recommendation or Final Judgment). Please make sure to provide additional postage if there are attachments, such as parenting plans.

If the proposed Report and Recommendation is being submitted pursuant to a hearing, opposing counsel shall review and approve the proposed Report and Recommendation prior to it being submitted to the Court (the cover letter shall reflect that opposing counsel has reviewed and approved). If opposing counsel does not approve the form of the proposed Order, and the parties are unable to resolve, the Order must be submitted along with opposing counsel’s proposed Order or their objections. Please do not send the Magistrate a letter explaining your position, and please do not send a five-day letter for objections as this could result in the entry of a recommended Order in error. Exception: Other party not represented by Counsel.

Submitted Proposed Reports & Recommendations

All proposed Reports and Recommendations and Orders Approving Reports and Recommendations shall be submitted by U.S. mail, along with the sufficient number of copies and the two sets of stamped/addressed envelopes, as explained above.

If the Magistrate has specifically requested that you submit a proposed Report and Recommendation by email, you may email it to the Magistrate’s Assistant in a format compatible with Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx format). Do not send in a pdf format.

Copy opposing counsel/pro se party by email (or fax) with all documents submitted to the Magistrate. (Indicate in your email that copies have been provided to opposing counsel/pro se party.)


Please cancel hearing time thru JACS as soon as you are aware the need for the hearing time no longer exists. If you are unable to cancel the hearing through JACS, please contact the Magistrate’s Assistant so she can make the time available for other cases.

You must also file a Notice of Cancellation with the Clerk’s Office and fax a copy to the Magistrate’s Office. Please make sure you contact the opposing party/counsel immediately and any witnesses you may have so that they do not appear for the hearing. Only the party who scheduled the matter for hearing may file a Notice of Cancellation.

Contact Information