FC Divisional News

Divisional Instructions for Family Division FC

Divisional Instructions for Probate Division IC

DIVISIONAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR DIVISIONS FC and IC
IN RE: MITIGATING MEASURES IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 TO EASILY ENABLE TELEPHONIC OR VIDEO HEARINGS, OR RULINGS SOLELY ON THE PAPERS

The following shall be implemented in Division FC and IC pursuant to Administrative Order No.: 12.510-03/2020.4*  Please refer to the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Website for the courts latest updates regarding COVID-19.

Based on the Administrative Order, only essential court proceedings are being held in person. All non-essential proceedings will be handled by telephone when possible, or will be rescheduled if necessary.  There will be no hearings set on Fridays, unless set by court order.  

During the duration of Administrative Order No.: 12.510-03/2020.4*, all hearings will be conducted via telephone, and must be pre-arranged with a telephone conference provider. This requirement applies to pro se litigants as well as attorneys. Telephone conference providers include Court Call (888-882-6878), CourtScribes (833-727-4237 ext 3),and Zoom (888-799-9666). Parties are free to seek out other vendors or utilize their own conference call provider if they have one. If using a teleconference provider that does not automatically provide a dial-in number, the Notice of Hearing must include the number and passcode that the Court will use to initiate the call at the time of the hearing.

Uniform Motion Calendar and Uncontested Hearings:

All Uniform Motion Calendar hearings will be conducted by telephone only, including uncontested dissolution of marriage hearings, or any other hearing that can be handled remotely.  For an uncontested divorce, please provide the Court with a copy of the testifying party's driver license in advance, which may be uploaded in the Online Services System (OLS) as an attachment to the Final Judgment.  No one will be present in the courtroom. This rule applies to pro se litigants and court reporters as well as attorneys.  In addition, only hearings that have been scheduled on the Online Scheduling System will go forward. 

Courtroom 6B of the Palm Beach County Courthouse should not be used as the place of hearing on notices of hearing. Instead, future notices of hearing must state that the hearing will be held by telephone conference call.  Hearings must be set up with the telephone conference provider of your choice. A courtsey copy of your notice of hearing by telephone conference must be submitted via the cad division's email so it can be placed on the Judge's calendar. If using Court Call, the dial-in information is automatically provided and the court is furnished with a list of the scheduled hearings. If using another provider, or if you choose to use your own teleconferencing system, you must provide the court with the dial-in information, including passcode, in advance. This information must be included in your notice of hearing.

Motion calendar will still commence at 8:45 a.m. and is extended to at least 10:00 a.m. to accommodate the extra time that may be needed for telephone conferencing. Please call in and have all parties on the line promptly at 8:45 a.m. Judge Francis will then call into each case as it appears on the online calendar. Please be patient and continue to hold on the line until your case is called.

Probate Ex-Parte Hearings

Physical hearings for probate ex-parte have been suspended until further notice.  Counsel and parties seeking ex-parte relief should continue to submit documents to the Court via Online Services System along with proposed orders.  The case will be reviewed in the order in which it is received.  For expedited review, submit a completed and correct Probate Checklist, as explained in detail in the Divisional Instructions for Division IC.

Non-Evidentiary Hearings:

The parties are encouraged to submit their motions, responses, affidavits, etc., to the Court that they mutually agree the Court may address based solely upon the papers, and thereby waive oral argument. All such requests should be sent to CAD-DivisionFC@pbcgov.org for family cases, or CAD-DivisionIC@pbcgov.org for probate/guardianship cases.  Each side should prepare a proposed order to be submitted through the Online Services System (OLS) with notation that it is related to a disputed issue which the parties have agreed for the Court to review without a hearing.

When hearings are necessary for non-evidentiary issues, they will be handled by telephonic hearing. 

Evidentiary Hearings

The Court intends to handle evidentiary hearings by telephone whenever possible, however, this will require the highest level of professionalism and cooperation between opposing counsel and parties.  No less than 48 hours prior to each hearing, the parties must exchange all proposed exhibits which they intend to reference during the hearing, by email in .pdf format.  Each proposed exhibit must be pre-marked for identification to identify the exhibits numerically.  

The parties should stipulate to the admissibility of evidence for which the admissibility is not reasonably contested. The parties shall provide copies of all intended exhibits, evidence or demonstratives to the Court in advance in .pdf format to CAD-DivisionFC@pbcgov.org for family cases, or CAD-DivisionIC@pbcgov.org for probate/guardianship cases.

If witnesses will be called to give testimony, the Court requires that such appearances be pre-arranged with a teleconference provider as in paragraph 2 above or via video with an appropriate provider. Per Justice Canady's Administrative Order (3-13-2020) and Administrative Order (3-24-20), all rules of procedure, court orders and opinions applicable to court procedure that limit or prohibit the use of communication equipment for conducting proceedings by electronic means are suspended from the March 13, 2020 - April 17, 2020, or as provided by subsequent order.  

To the extent possible, court reporters will also utilize a teleconference or video conference provider to cover hearings/non-jury trials. The Court will administer the oath, or oaths are to be administered in accord with Justice Canady's A.O.

Any motions to assist fair, timely, effective and efficient efforts suggesting procedures to use to address necessary issues for your respective cases during the current outbreak are strongly encouraged by the Court. It is the intention of the Court to enable and facilitate telephone or video hearings in a practical manner or to allow rulings on the papers when acceptable to the parties. Above all, though, the Court wishes to provide for the administration of justice without risking anyone's safety.

Contested Final Hearings and Trials

Most contested final hearings and trials will not be handled by telephone at this time, and will most likely need to be rescheduled for a later date.  Parties are encouraged to participate in mediation or other alternatives for dispute resolution (which may also be done by telephone during this time), to attempt to resolve disputes which would otherwise require a trial. 

 Most general questions can be answered by reading the Divisional Instructions herein. For case-specific questions the best way to contact the Judicial Assistant is via email at CAD-DivisionFC@pbcgov.org for family cases or CAD-DivisionIC@pbcgov.org.

**DUE TO THE COVID-19, notary requirements for waivers, consents and receipts will be waived. This does not include disclaimers and Affidavit of Heirs ( notary is required) if special circumstances exist and a waiver is required for the latter two, The Court will use its discretion.***

Online Scheduling

IMPORTANT UPDATE: All Orders Must Be Submitted Through E-Filing Portal (OLS)

Pursuant to Supreme Court Administrative Order AOSC19-74, all orders are to be filed electronically, and directly through the Portal. No mail or email orders. Instead of bringing paper orders (or emailing orders to the court for printing and signing), please submit your orders through our OLS system.

How Does It Work?

To Submit an Order:

  • Log into the 15th Circuit's OLS
  • In OLS, create the appropriate order one of three ways
    1. Click on the "Submit Order From Template" button;
      • Select the Generic Order template, and type in the text of your order; or
    2. If you have previously drafted the order in Word offline, cut and paste the order text into the body of the Generic Order template.
      • Follow the instructions on the screen and complete.
      • Click "Submit" to send the order to the judge.
    3. In OLS, click the "Submit Proposed Order" button;
      • Browse your computer and select, then upload the order;
      • Review the document and make any format adjustments necessary prior to submission.
      • Follow the instructions on the screen to submit the order to the court.

For additional information on court provided digital training resources visit the Circuit's YouTube channel, CourtHelp4U.

Uniform Motion Calendar (UMC)

  • Tuesday through Thursday, 8:45 a.m. – 9:30 a.m., in Courtroom 6B. Scheduling is between the attorneys and/or self-represented litigants. The hearings are not scheduled with the judicial assistant. Parties will be heard on a first come, first serve basis (please sign in with the courtroom deputy).
  • Generally, five (5) minutes is allotted for a matter on the UMC docket.
  • No contested evidentiary hearings (including default final hearings) will be heard during UMC.
  • Final hearings for adoption should not be set on the UMC calendar.  These matters will be special set for final hearing by the Court.
  • Uncontested final hearings in dissolution, paternity, name change and temporary custody cases will be heard during UMC.
  • Matters should be set with five (5) business days' notice to opposing counsel or pro se litigant (unless short notice agreed by parties).
  • Judge Francis will review all motions scheduled for UMC prior to the hearing. Accordingly, prior to the scheduled hearing, please send a courtesy copy of the notice of hearing and motion for all UMC matters, to Judge Francis' divisional email,CAD-DivisionFC@pbcgov.org.
  • Counsel should also bring a copy of the motion and notice of hearing to the UMC hearing, along with one blank proposed Order with all email addresses listed upon the Order. Judge Francis' Judicial Assistant will e-serve all Orders from UMC hearings.

If you resolve your motion prior to the hearing date, please contact the Judicial Assistant and advise as quickly as possible. You can call 561-355-3028 or email CAD-DivisionFC@pbcgov.org to notify the Court of your cancellation.

Appearance by telephone is permitted at UMC hearings in compliance with Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.530 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.451, using CourtCall.  CourtCall.com is the service provider used for the purposes of scheduling and appearing at a non-evidentiary hearing via telephone. You must notify the opposing side to let them know that you will be appearing by telephone.  The opposing side that is not appearing by telephone, must advise the judge at the beginning of the hearing that the hearing is  by telephone.

To set a telephonic appearance for a hearing that is presently set, please go to CourtCall.com and/or call 1-888-882-6878 and follow the instructions.

Formatting Documents

Proposed order should include a cover letter specifying the date of the hearing.

All recorded documents (including final judgments) must provide a 3x3 inch space in the top-right-hand corner. The Clerk of Court will no longer accept documents for recording without this space. Please see Rule 2.520, and MyPalmBeachClerk.com. You may also contact the Clerk of Court for further information as to the specific documents required.

FINAL JUDGMENTS and Orders will be e-served by the Court to all parties or mailed if there are self-represented litigants without e-service.

Proposed Final Judgments should not be submitted prior to Final Hearing

  • Special Set Hearings of thirty minutes or less are scheduled online and the parties should not call the Judicial Assistant to special set hearings.
  • The hearing times are set in 15 or 30 minute increments. The parties should not set more than 30 minutes per case per day.
  • Please do not call the judicial assistant if there are no available hearing dates or dates the parties cannot agree to. The Judicial Assistant monitors the online scheduling on a regular basis and will open dates as they become available. What is listed is what is available.
  • For special set hearings lasting more than 30 minutes, please submit a cover letter specifying the amount of time requested, a courtesy copy of the pleading, and any dates of unavailability.

Local Rule 4

Strict compliance with amended Local Rule 4. Prior to setting a matter on the motion calendar, the party or counsel noticing the motion shall attempt to resolve the matter and shall certify the good faith attempt to resolve. See amended Local Rule 4.

Self-Represented Parties (Pro Se)

If you are a self-represented pro se party (with no attorney), you must contact the Family Court Case Manager, Tara Kranz, at 561-355-1764, for questions and guidance regarding your case.

To receive and serve court documents by email, please review Administrative Order 2.310 and complete and file a Notice of Designation of Email Address for E-Service.

Do Not Send Letters, Emails or Notes To The Court

The Court does not act on letters, notes or emails sent by either party. The Court acts on petitions or motions properly filed with the Clerk of the Court. File the appropriate petition or motion with the Clerk of the Court, send a copy to the opposing side and a courtesy copy to the Court in order for requests to be addressed by the Court. All documents emailed to the Court must state that they were emailed to the opposing side in the same email or they will be returned as ex parte communication.

Post Judgment and Child Support Matters

  • All post judgment and child support matters are to be referred or assigned to the General Magistrate.
  • Post judgment matters, other than those dealing with child support, require an Order of Referral to Magistrate.  The Order of Referral must include the date of filing, the specific Magistrate assigned, and the hearing room number of the Magistrate listed immediately above the style of the case.
  • Order of Referral to General Magistrates are to be sent directly to the Magistrates for review. Please review the Magistrates Webpage for the instructions on submitting proposed Orders via the OLS.
  • Please see Administrative Order 5.104 regarding Appointment of Magistrates Unified Family Court Cases.
  • Please visit the General Magistrates' page on the court's website for additional information regarding the Magistrates' instructions, phone numbers and procedures.
  • Temporary Relief Hearings

  • Mediation ON THE TEMPORARY RELIEF SOUGHT (following the filing of the motion for temporary relief) must be held before a temporary relief hearing will be scheduled Administrative Order 5.207.
  • Following mediation, if parties are unable to reach an agreement, temporary relief hearings may be set via the Division FC online calendar.
  • Hearings are limited to a total of thirty (30) minutes. Administrative Order 5.207 unless permission granted by the Court.
  • Follow instructions for Special Set Hearings as set forth above.