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IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO the FLORIDA SUPREME COURT APPROVED FAMILY LAW FORMS – 12.970(A)-(F).
Pursuant to the procedures approved in Amendments to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure & Family Law Forms, 810 So. 2d 1, 13-14 (Fla. 2000), this Court has internally reviewed the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Forms and has determined that revision of six forms, 12.970(a) (Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family); 12.970(b) (Petition for Concurrent Custody by Extended Family); 12.970(c) (Waiver of Service of Process and Consent for Temporary Custody by Extended Family); 12.970(d) (Waiver of Service of Process and Consent for Concurrent Custody by Extended Family); 12.970(e) (Order Granting Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family); and 12.970(f) (Order Granting Petition for Concurrent Custody by Extended Family) is needed.1 Input was received from the Advisory Workgroup on the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Forms, which provided valuable assistance.
In 2020, the Legislature amended chapter 751, Florida Statutes, the law governing temporary and concurrent custody. See Ch. 2020-146, Laws of Fla. Revision of the six forms relating to temporary and concurrent custody is necessary so the forms will accord with the provisions of chapter 751, as amended.
The forms are hereby amended as set forth in the appendix to this opinion, fully engrossed. The amended forms shall become effective immediately upon the release of this opinion and may be accessed and downloaded from the Florida State Courts’ website at https://www.flcourts.org/Resources-Services/Court-Improvement/Family-Courts/Family-Law-Self-Help-Information/Family-Law-Forms. By amending the forms, we express no opinion as to their correctness or applicability. We also direct that amended forms be published for comment. Interested persons shall have seventy-five days from the date of this opinion to file comments with the Court.2
It is so ordered.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR FLORIDA SUPREME COURT APPROVED FAMILY LAW FORM 12.970(a)
PETITION FOR TEMPORARY CUSTODY BY EXTENDED FAMILY (06/21)
When should this form be used?
This form should be used by an extended family member to obtain temporary custody of a child or children pursuant to Chapter 751, Florida Statutes. This form should not be used if you are a parent seeking to establish parental responsibility or time-sharing with a child or children.
An Extended Family Member is:
A relative of a minor child within the third degree by blood or marriage to the parent;
The stepparent of a minor child if the stepparent is currently married to the parent of the child and is not a party in a pending dissolution, separate maintenance, domestic violence, or other civil or criminal proceeding in any court of competent jurisdiction involving one or both of the children's parents as an adverse party;
An individual who qualifies as “fictive kin.” As defined in section 39.01, Florida Statutes, fictive kin means a person unrelated by birth, marriage, or adoption who has an emotionally significant relationship, which possesses the characteristics of a family relationship, to a child.
You may file a Petition for Temporary Custody if:
You have the signed, notarized consents of the children's legal parents;
You are an extended family member who is caring full time for the children in the role of a substitute parent and with whom the children are presently living.
If one of the minor children's parents objects to the Petition, the court shall grant the Petition only upon a finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that the children's parent or parents are unfit to provide for the care and control of the children. In determining that a parent is unfit, the court must find that the parent has abused, abandoned, or neglected the children, as defined in Chapter 39, Florida Statutes. If you do not have the parents’ consents, you should consult a family law attorney before you file your papers.
If you do not meet the qualifications above, you should talk to an attorney about other options. You may also report any suspected abuse, abandonment, or neglect to the appropriate authorities.
This form should be typed or printed in black ink. After completing this form, you should sign the form before a notary public or deputy clerk. You should file the original with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you live and keep a copy for your records.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING E-FILING
The Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration now require that all petitions, pleadings, and documents be filed electronically except in certain circumstances. Self-represented litigants may file petitions or other pleadings or documents electronically; however, they are not required to do so. If you choose to file your pleadings or other documents electronically, you must do so in accordance with Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.525, and you must follow the procedures of the judicial circuit in which you file. The rules and procedures should be carefully read and followed.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING E-SERVICE ELECTION
After the initial service of process of the petition or supplemental petition by the Sheriff or certified process server, the Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration now require that all documents required or permitted to be served on the other party must be served by electronic mail (e-mail) except in certain circumstances. You must strictly comply with the format requirements set forth in the Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration. If you elect to participate in electronic service, which means serving or receiving pleadings by electronic mail (e-mail), or through the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal, you must review Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.516. You may find this rule at www.flcourts.org through the link to the Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration provided under either Family Law Forms: Getting Started, or Rules of Court in the A-Z Topical Index.
SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS MAY SERVE DOCUMENTS BY E-MAIL; HOWEVER, THEY ARE NOT REQUIRED TO DO SO. If a self-represented litigant elects to serve and receive documents by e-mail, the procedures must always be followed once the initial election is made.
To serve and receive documents by e-mail, you must designate your e-mail addresses by using the Designation of Current Mailing and E-mail Address, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.915, and you must provide your e-mail address on each form on which your signature appears. Please CAREFULLY read the rules and instructions for: Certificate of Service (General), Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.914; Designation of Current Mailing and E-mail Address, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.915; and Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.516.
What should I do next?
IF YOU HAVE SIGNED AND NOTARIZED WAIVERS OF SERVICE OF PROCESS AND CONSENTS from the child(ren)’s parents, and the case is uncontested, you may contact the clerk, family law intake staff, or judicial assistant, to set a final hearing. You must notify the child(ren)’s parents of the hearing by using a Notice of Hearing (General), Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.923, or other appropriate notice of hearing form.
If one of the parents is deceased, you must file a certified copy of the proof of death.
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE SIGNED AND NOTARIZED WAIVERS OF SERVICE OF PROCESS AND CONSENTS from the children's parents, you must properly notify the parents of the petition. If you know where he or she lives, you should use personal service. If you absolutely do not know where he or she lives after conducting a diligent search, you may use constructive service. You must complete all of the searches listed in the Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.913(c), and file the form with the clerk. You should seek legal advice on constructive service as this is a complicated area of the law. If the identity of one parent is unknown, you will need to seek legal advice to determine the proper way to serve an unknown parent. For more information, see Chapter 49, Florida Statutes.
If personal service is used, the parents have 20 days to answer after being served with your petition. Your case will generally proceed in one of the following ways:
DEFAULT. If after 20 days, no answer has been filed, you may file a Motion for Default, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.922(a), with the clerk of court. You must file a Notice for Trial, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.924. Then, if you have filed all of the required papers, you may contact the clerk, family law intake staff, or judicial assistant, to set a final hearing. You must notify the child(ren)’s parents of the hearing by using a Notice of Hearing (General), Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.923, or other appropriate notice of hearing form.
CONTESTED. If either parent files an answer which disagrees with or denies anything in your petition and you are unable to settle the disputed issues, you must file a Notice for Trial, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.924, to request a final hearing. Some circuits may require the completion of mediation before a final hearing may be set. You should contact the clerk, family law intake staff, or judicial assistant for instructions on how to set your case for trial (final hearing).
At any time, either or both of the children's parents may petition the court to modify or terminate the order granting temporary custody. The court shall terminate the order upon a finding that the parent is a fit parent, or by the consent of the parties. The court may modify an order granting temporary custody if the parties consent or if the modification is in the best interest of the children
Where can I look for more information?
Before proceeding, you should read “General Information for Self-Represented Litigants” found at the beginning of these forms. The words that are in “bold underline” in these instructions are defined there. For further information, see Chapter 751 and Chapter 39, Florida Statutes.
If you do not have the money to pay the filing fee, you may obtain an application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status, fill it out, and the clerk will determine whether you are eligible to have filing fees deferred.
With this petition, you must file the following and provide a copy to the other party:
• Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.902(d).
• Notice of Related Cases, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.900(h).
• Family Court Cover Sheet, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.928.
• Non-Military Affidavit, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.912(b). (Required only for obtaining a default on petitions that have been personally or constructively served. Not required if both parents have signed a waiver and consent.)
Remember, a person who is NOT an attorney is called a nonlawyer. If a nonlawyer helps you fill out these forms, that person must give you a copy of a Disclosure from Nonlawyer, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.900(a), before he or she helps you. A nonlawyer helping you fill out these forms must put his or her name, address, and telephone number on the bottom of the last page of every form he or she helps you complete.
1. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.
2. All comments must be filed with the Court on or before August 24, 2021, with a separate request for oral argument if the person filing the comment wishes to participate in oral argument, which may be scheduled in this case. If filed by an attorney in good standing with The Florida Bar, the comment must be electronically filed via the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal (Portal) in accordance with In re Electronic Filing in the Supreme Court of Florida via the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC13-7 (Feb. 18, 2013). If filed by a nonlawyer or a lawyer not licensed to practice in Florida, the comment may be, but is not required to be, filed via the Portal. Comments filed via the Portal must be submitted in Microsoft Word 97 or higher. See In re Electronic Filing in the Florida Supreme Court, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC17-27 (May 9, 2017). Any person unable to submit a comment electronically must mail or hand-deliver the originally signed comment to the Florida Supreme Court, Office of the Clerk, 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1927; no additional copies are required or will be accepted.
CANADY, C.J., and POLSTON, LABARGA, LAWSON, MUÑIZ, COURIEL, and GROSSHANS, JJ., concur.
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Docket No: No. SC21-607
Decided: June 10, 2021
Court: Supreme Court of Florida.
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