Rule amendments address delinquency, dependency, and family law remote proceedings
The Supreme Court July 14 amended the Juvenile and Family Law Rules of procedures and forms to address remote proceedings.
“The proposed amendments, which we adopt with substantial modifications, provide permanent and broader authorization for the remote conduct of certain court proceedings in the areas of delinquency, dependency, and family law,” the court said, acting in Case No. SC22-1.
The courts amending of the Family and Juvenile rules came on the same day it adopted a sweeping COVID-19 Workgroup proposal regarding remote court proceedings in Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.530 (Communication Technology), and encompassed six other rule sets: Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Probate Rules, Traffic Court, Small Claims, and Appellate Procedure. (See story, here.)
While working to refine its proposals, the Workgroup identified the need for greater subject matter expertise for the proposed amendments in the areas of delinquency, dependency, and family law and the court referred responsibility for the review, revision, and finalization of proposed amendments in these areas to the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court, which also sought input from the Juvenile Court Rules Committee and the Family Law Rules Committee.
“Having considered the proposed amendments, the comments, and the Steering Committee’s response, the Court hereby adopts, with changes, the Steering Committee’s proposals as modified in response to the comments,” the court said.
New Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.001 (Communication Technology) exempts proceedings governed by the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure from Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.530 (Communication Technology). Then, new Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.002 (Definitions) defines “Appear or Appearance” to mean “[t]he presentation of oneself before the court in person or via communication technology.” And amendments to Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure 8.100 (General Provisions for Hearings) and 8.255 (General Provisions for Hearings) provide for the remote and hybrid conduct of certain delinquency and dependency hearings. Under amended rules 8.100 and 8.255, evidentiary proceedings must be conducted in person unless the parties agree, or the court orders for good cause shown, that the proceedings be conducted remotely or in a hybrid format. Other proceedings may be conducted remotely or in a hybrid format upon agreement of the parties or court order. And parties who participate remotely or in a hybrid format must be able to privately communicate with counsel.
The court declined to adopt the Steering Committee’s proposed amendments to Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure 8.224 (Permanent Mailing Address) and 8.400 (Case Plan Development).
“However, we amend Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.225(f) (Notice and Service of Pleadings and Papers) to resemble the amendments to Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.516 (Service of Pleadings and Documents) adopted in Case No. SC21-990, which require non-represented parties to participate in e-mail service unless in custody or excused after declaring a lack of an e-mail account or regular internet access,” the court said.
As suggested by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, the court amended Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.290 (Dependency Mediation) to conform to its civil and appellate counterparts by expressly authorizing the use of communication technology in dependency mediation.
When it came to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, the court declined to adopt the Steering Committee’s proposal for new Rule 12.026 (Communication Technology).
“Since we do not adopt this proposed rule 12.026, remote family law proceedings will be governed by rule 2.530, like all other civil proceedings,” the court said. “This will ensure that the rules governing remote proceedings are more uniformly implemented across most case types.”
The court said the proposal for a new Rule 12.026 would not have safeguarded any rights or interests unique to family law matters, and the Steering Committee’s petition did not explain why a separate rule that is slightly different from Rule 2.530 was needed for family law cases.
The court did adopt modified versions of the Steering Committee’s proposals for Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure 12.310 (Depositions Upon Oral Examination), 12.320(b) (Officer to Take Responses and Prepare Record), 12.410(e) (Subpoena for Taking Depositions), 12.430(d) (Juror Participation Through Audio-Video Communication Technology), 12.440(b) (Notice for Trial), and 12.740 (Family Mediation) for greater consistency with the amendments adopted in Case No. SC21-990.
Also, at the suggestion of the Family Law Section, the court removed language in Rule 12.740 that had unnecessarily required each party’s counsel to sign a mediation agreement.
The court also amended Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Forms 12.980(a), (f), (n), (q), and (t) as proposed by the Steering Committee.
The amendments to the rules and forms become effective October 1. The amended forms may be accessed and downloaded from the Florida State Courts’ website.