Being involved in a family law matter can be one of the most trying times of a person’s life. Whether it is a divorce or a request for custody, a financial matter involving alimony, child support, or the division of a retirement account, the sale of a home or a car, and everything in between, emotions are high. Many people have misconceptions or assumptions about family law that, while they seem to work out on television, are not how judges apply Florida law in real life.

PART 3 of our 3 part series on Misconceptions in Family Law will answer some general and procedural questions you may have about the process. Below are 5 misconceptions about every family law proceeding that may relieve some undue stress while you await a hearing, mediation, or prepare yourself for a family law matter.

1. You do not need to comply with a Standing Temporary Order, or a Standing Order, as it only outlines suggestions for your conduct.

This is false! Many courts enter a Standing Temporary Order, or Standing Order, soon after a case is filed. The Standing Order outlines, generally, that status quo must be maintained throughout the proceeding – that accounts cannot be drained, that children should not be forced to choose sides, that you cannot leave the state with the child, and that mediation is mandatory, among other items.

This Standing Order is a binding order, not merely a list of suggestions, and remains in force until further order of the court.

2. All matters will be addressed and your case will be over at your first Case Management Conference.

In some counties, after a case filing, you are given an auto-generated date for your first Case Management Conference. However, a Case Management Conference is a quick status conference, and generally, your case is not completed at this time. You attend with your attorney, or yourself if you are self-represented, and there are many cases set for a hearing at the same time and in the same courtroom. Once your case is called, you meet with the judge for an update on your case. No testimony is taken. No determinations are made. The judge simply wants to ensure that everything is moving along and will make simple orders relating to discovery deadlines or mediation, if needed.
If, however, you and the opposing party come to a settlement prior to your Case Management Conference, this time in court can be used to finalize your matter.

3. Mediation is not mandatory and instead, you can proceed straight to Court.

Mediation is a process where a neutral, third party mediator – often another lawyer, retired judge, or a trained mediator – is hired to assist in discussing all of the issues and resolving the disputes without the necessity of court intervention.
In all cases, mediation is mandatory. Even if you are filing a post-judgment matter, meaning, you have come to enforce a judgment, or you are requesting temporary support throughout proceedings, mediation is mandatory. Even if you attend the Case Management Conference, described above, and you have not attended mediation, a judge will likely order you to attend.
What is discussed at mediation is confidential, and even if you do not settle, the other party or opposing counsel cannot go tell your judge what you discussed in mediation or what you previously offered as settlement.

4. If a party is pro se, meaning they have not hired an attorney, then your attorney does not need to speak with them and instead, can file things unilaterally in court and schedule hearings without coordination.

Some people choose not to hire attorneys and rather, proceed with the case themselves. However, if you have an attorney, and the other party is self-represented, your attorney will still treat them as an “attorney” for all intents and purposes. This means that your attorney will communicate with them just as they would an attorney. For example, you will not be able to file pleadings or communicate with the judge without also informing the other party, as this would be unethical. At times, this means that your attorney will have to speak with the other party and your attorney would charge for this time just as they would charge for speaking to the other attorney.

5. Administrative Orders, like Standing Temporary Orders, are merely suggestions to follow.

Most clients believe that upon a case being filed, you are quickly in court and the judge will rule on all issues. However, Administrative Orders exist in some counties which outline rules and procedures that attorneys and self-represented parties must follow during the case. A common issue that arises is that procedural deadlines must be followed, and largely, a judge will want to see that you have made a good faith attempt to resolve issues, discovery or otherwise, prior to seeking their assistance in court. Sometimes, a good faith attempt is even required, such as when financial disclosure or discovery is due, but the other party is passed their due date. You cannot simply file a motion to enforce their compliance without an attempt to secure the overdue documents yourself, in good faith.

Are you in need of Family Law services in Tampa, FL? Call today to schedule your consultation.