Supreme Court amends family law rules

first_img August 15, 2003 Regular News Supreme Court amends family law rules The Florida Supreme Court has approved amendments for family law procedural rules, adding dating violence to the rules and for the first time allowing “conditional sealing” of financial information in a family law case.The court considered biennial amendments from the Family Law Rules Committee and approved all of its recommendations, although it modified Rule 12.400 on confidentiality of records and proceedings.The amendments affected 18 rules and forms, but the court, in Amendments to Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, case no. SC03-60, said the main changes involved disclosure and domestic violence issues.In Rule 12.610, the court approved adding references to dating violence, which incorporates recent legislative changes. That term was also added to several other rules and forms covering domestic violence.For Rule 12.286 on mandatory disclosure, the court approved adding a line that clarifies information that must be disclosed between divorcing parties. Only the financial affidavit and child support guidelines worksheet must be filed with the court, unless there is a court order.The amendment limits the documents in the court files, prevents filing of documents that are unnecessary to resolve the case, and protects information such as Social Security numbers and tax return data that could be used in identity theft.The rules committee has several times in the past unsuccessfully proposed sealing financial information in a family law case, but the court has declined. However, the court in a 1998 case said it would consider “conditional sealing,” if it would meet the requirements of public access in Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.051.The rules committee proposed a method for sealing information, following that opinion, and a procedure for a party to seek to open those records. The court accepted that recommendation, but made three changes.The first divides the new subsection allowing the conditional sealing into three sections: Defining when conditional sealing is appropriate, delineating how notice should be given, and explaining how an individual may seek to open the sealed information.The second makes the notice requirement in the subsection conform to Rule of Judicial Administration 2.051(c)(9)(D). The third requires that the burden of proof for sealing information will remain on the party seeking closure, as specified in Barron v. Florida Freedom Newspapers, Inc., 531 So. 2d 113 (Fla. 1988).The court, in its unanimous July 10 per curiam opinion, ordered that rules relating to dating violence are effective immediately, while the remainder become effective January 1.The complete text of the opinion, and the amendment rules, can be found on the court’s Web site at Supreme Court amends family law ruleslast_img

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