Family Law Evolves

Florida family law rules and regulations are codified to provide guidelines by which individuals may understand how the state approaches certain issues such as requirements for marriage, divorce procedures, child custody, spousal maintenance, among other family-related issues. With any type of legal requirements, it is important that the law mirrors the trends and perspectives of society at any given time. Because of this, the rules and procedures governing Florida family law must grow and develop in line with changing norms in the family law space.

Due to the changes affecting the Family Law Rules of Procedure, to understand how this may affect you and your family law case, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

The History of the Family Law Rules of Procedure

The Family Law Rules of Procedure and the attached forms were originally adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in 1995 with the understanding that they would not be stand-alone rules. They incorporate Florida Rules of Civil Procedure to ensure that legal practitioners would not be confused about what differences existed between the civil rules and the family law rules. This change was made effective on January 1, 1996.

Evolving Needs Led to Family Law Reform

However, over the last 20 years, the practice of family law has evolved substantially. This evolution occurred as a result of society’s move away from the “traditional family” model, to incorporate new types of family. Additionally, the law has changed substantially, and there are now many more issues that must be decided within the family courts that go beyond divorce. The caseload of the court extends to disputes involving child sharing and visitation, domestic violence, paternity proceedings, and more. As such, in 2017, the Florida Supreme Court agreed with the Board of Governors’ determination that the Florida family law rules needed to be modified and amended to be seen as stand-alone rules, set aside from Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.

Major Changes to the Florida Family Law Rules

First and foremost, the major change found in the new Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure is the entire removal of the provision regarding the Applicability of Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. This removes the determination that Florida Rules of Civil Procedure are applicable to all family law matters and that these rules shall govern whenever there is a conflict in the rules, regulations, and procedures in the Florida Family Law Rules. The new standard replaces this provision with the Florida Family Law Glossary and information for any parties who would like to represent themselves pro se in a Florida family law court.

Additionally, the new Family Law Rules include new and amended rules for process, specifically the contents of the summons, how service should be made, and rules of pleadings. They also define the requirements of whether or not it is on the court’s discretion that minors, the incapacitated, or incompetent persons be represented by a guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem on behalf of that person. Ultimately, the original language qualified that minors, for example, “shall” have a guardian ad litem, but the new Family Law Rules of Procedure determined that it would be at the discretion of the court to deem it appropriate and proper that the minor has protection during the course of the family law proceedings. Finally, with the new Family Law Rules of Procedure, there are also associated and related documents and forms that must be used now that the system has become stand-alone from the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.

Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.