A petition or motion is a request for the court to make a decision. A hearing or trial is the time when the court will make a decision on the petition or motion filed by a party to the case. In general, motions are decided at hearings and petitions are decided at trials. The person making the decision will either be a judge, magistrate or hearing officer (referred to here as “the court”).
What is a hearing or trial?
A hearing/trial is a meeting with the court and both parties where the court will consider evidence that both sides present and will make a decision.
Who brings the evidence?
The court CANNOT investigate the case. The court cannot call witnesses or present evidence. It is YOUR responsibility to present admissible evidence at a hearing/trial to support what you have requested in a motion/petition or to defend against what the other party has requested in their motion/petition. Evidence can be witness testimony, testimony of you and/or the other party, documents, photographs, objects, etc. Admissible evidence is evidence the court is allowed to consider under the Rules of Evidence (See Florida Statutes, chapter 90). For example, letters from non-parties and repeating what a non-party told you (unless they are present in court to testify) generally are hearsay and are not admissible in court. However, there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule and admissibility of evidence should be researched before your hearing or trial.
How much time will I have to present the evidence?
Generally, you will have HALF of the time scheduled to present your evidence.
Who tells the other party about the hearing or trial?
If you are scheduling the hearing, it is your responsibility to notify the other party. You are required to send a Notice of Hearing to the other party at the last address in the court file (note: it is a good idea to also send to all other known/possible addresses) and to list all addresses used for the other party on the Notice of Hearing. If the court tells you it will prepare the Notice of Hearing, this requirement is waived. It is your responsibility to keep your address current in the court file AT ALL TIMES. All documents filed by you should state your current address.
If you have documents or items that you feel will help prove your case (i.e. copies of bills, receipts, printed text messages, a video burned to a portable drive, etc.), you must bring them with you. However, you must be aware that there are evidentiary rules that may prohibit their use, so determine whether witnesses may be necessary to properly introduce these items into evidence.