You Must Read Each Topic Before Filing Legal Documents In Family Court
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This information is for pro se litigants who wish to represent themselves in a family law case. What this means is that you are either the petitioner or the respondent in a case and do not have a lawyer.
You are encouraged to consult with a lawyer before proceeding further. Family law is a very complex area of the law. There are hundreds of volumes of case law which have been published by the appellate courts of Florida, as well as statutes and court rules, including rules of evidence. You will be expected to know and follow these laws and rules of procedure as your case moves through the system. The law does not require that you have a lawyer, but advice from and representation by a trained lawyer can save valuable time and eliminate unnecessary frustration.
If you decide to continue to represent yourself, your primary contacts, before actually appearing in court before a judge, will be deputy clerks of court and the court’s SelfHelp Program Family Division Case Manager.
The Clerk of the Circuit Court receives and processes pleadings and other papers submitted for filing by litigants. The Clerk also receives filing fees which litigants are required to pay when opening a case.
The Twelfth Judicial Circuit has established a Family Law Self-Help program to assist you in navigating your way through the court process. The program has coordinators called Family Division Case Managers. A case manager’s job is to make sure the court system is used effectively and efficiently; to make sure the judges receive the information that is necessary to make a ruling; and to make sure that litigants are aware of the requirements for proceeding in court.
Examples of ways that the case manager can be of assistance to a self-represented litigant are:
Rules regulating the practice of law prohibit non-lawyers from giving you legal advice. Canons of judicial ethics prohibit judges from giving you legal advice. For these reasons, no court officials - including the judge, the judge’s staff, the self-help case manager, officers of the Sheriff’s Department, the Clerk of the Circuit Court or any of the clerk’s staff -are permitted to represent you, give you legal advice, fill out your forms or tell you what to write in the forms. In fact, no court official is permitted to advise you which forms or pleadings are appropriate to address the issues you want to have the court consider and decide. These matters are your sole responsibility.
Please read the following information about self representation carefully:
On each document fill in your heading according to the following format substituting the county in which you are filing.
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE TWELFTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR ___________ COUNTY, FLORIDA
For example, litigants filing in Manatee County would enter the following header
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE TWELFTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR MANATEE COUNTY, FLORIDA
After you have filed all of the required forms, wait at least three business days before you request a hearing. All required documents must be in the court file before a final hearing may be scheduled. When you call the Family Division Case Manager in your county, listen very carefully to the voice instructions and leave the required information. If you require assistance from the Case Manager, you must file a request form called a Form A with the clerk’s office. The Form A is also available at the clerk’s office. Once your file is reviewed, you will be contacted by MAIL regarding your hearing date. You will not receive a return phone call unless the Case Manager has a question regarding your file that must be immediately addressed. (If your case involves Child Support Enforcement/Department of Revenue, do not file a Form A. You must file a Form C to request a hearing in a Child Support Enforcement matter.)
Sarasota: (941) 861-4890
South County (Venice): (941) 861-3017
Manatee County Division III: (941)749-3600 x 7052
Manatee County Division IV: (941) 749-3600 x 7053
DeSoto County: (863) 993-4639
When completing the Summons form or the Notice of Action, the address for the Clerk of Court must be inserted:
If you are a person with a disability who needs any accommodation in order to participate in this proceeding, you are entitled, at no cost to you, to the provision of certain assistance. Please contact the Jury Office in your County.
Manatee County: P.O. Box 25400, Bradenton, Florida, 34206, (941) 741-4062. If you are hearing or voice impaired, call 771.
Sarasota County: P.O. Box 3079, Sarasota, Florida, 34230-3079, (941) 861-7400. If you are hearing or voice impaired, call 771.
DeSoto County: 115 East Oak Street, Arcadia, Florida, 34266, (863) 993-4876. If you are hearing or voice impaired, call 771.